/Economic Report: Durable-goods orders surge in February on strong demand for autos, but the coronavirus crunch is coming

Economic Report: Durable-goods orders surge in February on strong demand for autos, but the coronavirus crunch is coming


Bloomberg

Manufacturers in the U.S. and around the world are getting slammed by the coronavirus.

The numbers: Orders for durable goods posted the biggest increase in February since last summer in the what’s likely to be the last good report for a while in light of the toll the coronavirus has taken on the U.S. economy.

Orders for durable goods jumped 1.2% last month, mostly because of big increase in bookings for new autos. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast no change.

Excluding transportation, durable-goods orders dipped 0.6% in February, the government said Wednesday. Durable goods are products made to last at least three years.

What happened: Orders rose nearly 2% for new cars and trucks, generating basically all of the increase in February. That was the largest gain in eight months.

Bookings also rose for appliances and electrical components.

Yet orders fell for primary metals, fabricated-metal parts, machinery, computers and networking gear.

A closely followed measure of business investment dropped 0.8%. Investment has been weak for a while and likely to tumble for at least the next few months as the nation struggles to contain the coronavirus.

Big picture: The decline in orders in February for most products aside from autos might be a hint of what is to come. Orders and investment in most industries are expected to decline sharply if the U.S. sinks into recession as widely expected.

Most economists don’t expect a recovery to begin until mid-summer at the earliest, but it will depend on how well the U.S. and governments around the world limit the viral outbreak.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +11.37%

and S&P 500

SPX, +9.38%

were set to open lower in Wednesday trades. Stocks surged on Tuesday on the hopes that Washington will pass a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package soon.

The 10-year Treasury yield

TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.73%

was little changed at 0.85%.

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