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December Durable Goods Rose as Business Investment Contracted

Durable goods orders rose 2.4% in December after falling 3.1% the month before. However, new orders for capital goods fell by the most in 8 months in December, indicating a further contraction of business investment in Q4, dragging on GDP. A measure used to indicate business spending plans fell 0.9% last month.

Key Takeaways

  • Durable goods rose 2.4% after falling 3.1% in November.
  • Non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.9%, indicating reduced business spending plans.
  • Annually, this measure of core-capital goods rose 0.8% last month.

Durable Goods

Goods aimed to last more than three years saw a rebound of 2.4% growth after falling 3.1% the month before. The growth was led by a 7.6% increase in transportation equipment orders which fell 8.3% in November. Defence aircraft and parts orders rose 168.3% last month, while civilian aircraft orders fell 74.7%. After receiving 63 orders for aircraft in November, Boeing received only three orders last month as the company continues to suffer reduced demand following the release of faulty equipment leading to fatal crashes.

Capital Goods

Core capital goods fell in December with reduced demand for machinery, primary metals and electrical equipment, and appliances and components. This was the largest decline in eight months at 0.9% vs. no change expected. Meanwhile, data for the month prior was revised downward from 0.2% to 0.1%.

Shipments of core capital goods fell 0.4% and fell 0.3% the month prior. The data indicates that business investment continued to drag on GDP in Q4 as well as Q3 and Q2. The Altanta Fed GDP forecast now predicts 1.8% annual growth in Q4 vs. 2.1% the quarter before that.

Business Investment

Spending on equipment and nonresidential structures for industrial use has fallen, pointing to ongoing weakness in manufacturing as a result of the 18-month trade war with China. While a preliminary trade agreement has now been signed, easing tensions, business confidence has been negatively impacted. Manufacturing, which accounts for 11% of the economy, saw massively reduced hiring in 2019 compared to the year before. The fatal crashes of the recalled Boeing 737 aircraft has impacted industries and workers throughout the supply chain, and the suspension of the 737 may lead to a 0.5% reduction in Q1 GDP for 2020.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have fallen slightly since the release of the report, seeing little to no reaction to it. Spot gold last traded at $1,569.70/oz, down 0.45% with a high of $1,583.36/oz and a low of $1,569.48/oz. Any bullish sentiment resulting from the mixed goods orders report has likely been offset by a rebound in the US stock market following the recent selloff.