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Metal shipments, new orders tumble

Keywords: Tags  Durable goods, primary metals, fabricated metals, new orders, shipments, inventories, motor vehicles, aircraft Michael Montgomery

CHICAGO — Shipments and new orders of primary metals and fabricated metals declined in July compared with the previous month, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Aug. 26.

Primary metal producers’ shipments totaled $24.91 billion, down 1.6 percent from June, and the year-to-date total of $177.39 billion was 2 percent lower than in the first seven months of last year, according to nonseasonally adjusted data. New orders totaled $24.9 billion in July, down 1.7 percent from the previous month, but the year-to-date total of $180.86 billion remained 1.9 percent ahead of a year earlier.

Fabricators’ shipments in July totaled $28.49 billion, down 4.7 percent from the previous month, but shipments of $201.3 billion in the first seven months of the year were up 1 percent from the same period in 2012. New orders of $28.32 billion last month were down 3 percent from June, but the year-to-date total of $211.76 billion was 2.9 percent higher than a year earlier.

Primary metal producers’ inventories totaled $35.18 billion at the end of July, up 0.5 percent from a month earlier, while fabricators’ inventories were 1.1 percent higher at $47.78 billion in the same comparison.

New orders for all manufactured durable goods dropped 19.3 percent last month to $206.5 billion, led by a 21.2-percent decline in motor vehicle and parts, a 62.7-percent drop in nondefense aircraft and a 35.6-percent slide in defense aircraft.

Year-to-date motor vehicle orders were up 9.3 percent compared with the first seven months of 2012 and orders for civilian aircraft were 13.5 percent higher, but federal budget cuts and military drawdowns abroad shrank defense aircraft and parts orders by 23.5 percent.

Everything else in the durables category softened by around 0.5 percent, according to Michael Montgomery, U.S. economist for Lexington, Mass., consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc.

"Manufacturing has little forward momentum as it continues to struggle," Montgomery said. "The manufacturing outlook remains just a shade above mediocre, waiting for something to stir it from its torpor. Better economic news from overseas may rouse exports and push manufacturing from first gear into second, but it is a long way from cruising speed."

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