Durable Goods, Manufacturing See Upticks; More Trucking Activity in April

U.S. durable goods orders for April were up 0.8 percent compared with March. Two regional manufacturing metrics were also up early this week. And trucking activity increased 1.5 percent in April.

U.S. durable goods orders for April were up 0.8 percent compared with March, when they gained 3.6 percent, according to the Census Bureau this week (durable goods being those expected to last at least three years). Take transportation goods out of the equation, and durable orders edged up only 0.1 percent in April, following a 2.9 percent spike the month before. The transportation component gained 2.3 percent in April, with the gain mostly because of orders for military aircraft.

Two regional manufacturing metrics were also up early this week. The Dallas Federal Reserve reported in its Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey that Texas factory activity increased again in May. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell from 24.7 to 11, indicating output grew but not strongly as in April.

The Richmond Fed likewise reported improving manufacturing conditions in its district, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas. The composite index for manufacturing held steady at a reading of 7 during the past two months. Also, manufacturing employment picked up during April.

More Trucking Activity in April 

The American Trucking Associations reported on Wednesday that its For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.5 percent in April, after rising 0.6 percent in March. In April, the index stood at 129.1 (2000 = 100), up from 127.2 the previous month, but still below the all-time high of 131.0 in November 2013.

Compared with April 2013, ATA’s index increased 4.8 percent, which is the largest year-over-year gain thus far of 2014. The index is an indirect indicator of overall economic activity, since a more robust economy tends to use the services of trucks at a more robust level.

“I’m pleased that tonnage has been making solid progress after falling a total of 5.2 percent in December and January,” ATA chief economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “And April’s nice gain was better than the contraction in industrial production and the lackluster retail sales during the same month.”

Wall Street dipped down on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 42.3 points, or 0.2 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq declined 0.3 percent.