WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories rose for a third consecutive month in April, adding to evidence that manufacturing is regaining momentum after a harsh winter.
Orders increased 0.7 percent in April, pushed higher by a surge in demand for military hardware, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That followed a 1.5 percent increase in March and a 1.7 percent climb in February.
The improvements followed two big declines in January and December, which partly reflected a harsh winter. A key category viewed as a proxy for business investment plans fell by 1.2 percent in April, though that drop came after a 4.7 percent surge in March.
The three solid monthly gains in factory orders should provide support to the overall economy, which is expected to stage a robust rebound in the April-June quarter.
The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in the January-March quarter, reflecting winter storms that disrupted business activity. But in the current quarter, analysts estimate GDP will advance at an annual rate as high as 3.8 percent.
Economists say that growth will remain strong in the second half of this year as consumer spending benefits from rising employment, which is providing households with more income.
The report on factory orders showed that demand for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, increased 0.6 percent in April. Orders for nondurable goods such as paper and chemicals rose 0.7 percent in April after a drop of 0.5 percent in March.
The overall increase reflected a sharp rise in demand for defense products including airplanes and communications equipment. Excluding defense, orders fell 0.1 percent in April.
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