US factory orders down 4 percent in March

Associated Press + More

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories fell in March by the largest amount in seven months but a key category that signals business investment plans managed a small increase.

The Commerce Department says factory orders dropped 4 percent following 1.9 percent rise in February, reflecting a big plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. Orders in a category considered a proxy for business investment plans rose 0.9 percent, a modest gain but an improvement from a preliminary report last week that had shown a decline.

Weaker economies overseas and the impact of across-the-board government spending cuts have made businesses more cautious, dampening demand for manufactured goods. But even with the March decline, total orders stood at $467.3 billion, 43 percent above the recession low hit in March 2009.

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