New orders for manufactured goods fell 4% to $467.3 billion for March, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens in PDF) released today. Market analysts had expected a slump after February's revised 1.9% gain, but their 2.8% prediction proved too optimistic for March's numbers.
Although February's numbers were partially inflated due to an unusually large boost in Boeing orders, new orders still fell 2% for April excluding transportation's 15.1% drop. Durable goods dipped 5.8%, while nondurables fell 2.4%.
Shipments bumped up 0.5% to $230.4 billion, hitting the highest recorded levels since data was first published in 1997. Unfilled orders fell 0.7% as manufacturers continue to push produced goods out the door.
However, ups and downs in inventories don't provide a clear picture of manufacturers' expectations for future purchases. A 1.6% decrease in primary metals pushed durable goods inventories down 0.1%, while a 0.4% bump in chemical products pushed nondurable goods up 0.2%. Overall backlog orders fell 0.7%.