Economists had expected a bigger drop in overall orders for durable goods, which are items such as appliances and industrial machinery meant to last at least three years. Over the past year, the orders are down 2.3% and are flat excluding transportation.
American industry has been hobbled over the past year by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a global economy that looked fragile even before being hit by fallout from a fast-moving coronavirus outbreak.
The numbers have been especially volatile in recent months because of Boeing’s decision to suspend production of its troubled 737 Max airliner. Orders for civilian aircraft surged 346.2% in January after dropping 66.7% in December.
Orders for military aircraft plunged 19.6% last month, and orders for cars and auto parts slid 0.8%. Excluding orders for military goods, orders climbed 3.6%, most since June 2017. Orders for computers were up 8% and orders for machinery were up 2.1%.
A category that tracks business investment -- orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft -- rose 1.1% in January after falling December and being flat in November.