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Business Investment is Down With Unexpected Drop in Durable Goods Orders

New orders for durable goods, designed to last more than three years, fell -1.1% in September, indicating softening business investment. This represents a big miss in orders which were forecast at a -0.2% drop. Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department indicates an ongoing trend in business spending, with the decline is likely a result of the ongoing trade war between China and the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • Durable goods orders fell -1.1% in September vs. just -0.2% expected after rising a revised 0.3% in August.
  • Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a measure of business spending plans on equipment, saw a -0.5% drop.
  • August data for this measure was revised to show a -0.6% drop vs. -0.4% initially reported.

The latest Commerce Department report indicates that business investment continues to soften due to uncertainty around the trade war. Businesses are planning to spend less on equipment, indicated by a -0.5% drop in non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft (core capital goods orders).  Demand for transportation equipment, motor vehicle parts, and computer and electronic products fell last month.

Core capital goods orders rose 1% annually, with shipments falling -0.7% last months. Shipments of core capital goods are a measure used to determine equipment spending for GDP calculations. Shipments in August were revised downward from 0.3% to a flat reading. 

Orders for computers and electronic goods dropped -0.9%, and electrical equipment, appliances, and components orders rose 0.9%. Fabricated metal products fell -1.5%, and machinery orders rose 0.2%. Orders for transportation equipment fell -2.7% last month after rising 0.2% in August, while motor vehicles and parts orders dropped -1.6%. Non-defense aircraft and parts orders fell -11.8%.

Manufacturing, which represents 11% of the US economy, has suffered under the escalating tariffs placed on US and Chinese goods by both nations as a result of the ongoing trade war. A strike at General Motors in September also impacted the sector. A report last month indicated that business investment dropped 1% annually last quarter, the largest drop since 2015.

The US Federal Reserve is likely to cut interest rates for the third time this year when policymakers convene next week. Cutting rates is implemented to hedge against recessionary pressures stemming from the trade war and a general economic slowdown seen worldwide.

Market Reaction

Gold is trading nearly daily highs and eyeing resistance levels following the release of the Commerce Department report. Spot gold last traded at $1,494.96/oz, up 0.34% with a high of $1,495.12/oz and a low of $1,488.38/oz.

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