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US factory orders post fifth straight monthly increase

An employee holds a resin tile as a composite engine case mold is prepared for bulk infusion molding at the GE Aviation manufacturing facility in Batesville, Mississippi.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

An employee holds a resin tile as a composite engine case mold is prepared for bulk infusion molding at the GE Aviation manufacturing facility in Batesville, Mississippi.

New orders for U.S.-made goods increased more than expected in December, but business spending on equipment appeared to be slowing after strong growth in 2017.

Factory goods orders rose 1.7 percent, advancing for a fifth straight month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. November’s report was revised to show orders jumping 1.7 percent instead of the previously reported 1.3 percent increase.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders climbing 1.5 percent in December. Orders increased 6.0 percent in 2017.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans, dropped 0.6 percent in December instead of falling 0.3 percent as reported last month. Orders for these so-called core capital goods edged up 0.1 percent in November.

Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, rose 0.4 percent in December instead of increasing 0.6 percent as reported last month. Core capital goods shipments rose 0.3 percent in November.

Business spending soared last year, in part as companies anticipated a massive cut in the corporate income tax rate, which was passed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last month.

The overhaul of the tax code, the most sweeping in 30 years, slashed the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. Business spending increased in the fourth quarter at its fastest clip in more than three years.

Strong business spending, a weakening dollar and strengthening global economy are supporting manufacturing, which makes up about 12 percent of the U.S. economy.

In December, orders for machinery rose 0.4 percent after falling 0.3 percent in November. Orders for industrial machinery rebounded 4.3 percent after slumping 4.4 percent. Orders for transportation equipment surged 7.1 percent after increasing 4.5 percent in November.

But orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components fell 0.9 percent. Orders for computers and electronic products slipped 0.1 percent.

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