WASHINGTON – U.S. orders for big-ticket factory goods plunged for the second straight month in April as the coronavirus pandemic hammered the economy.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods dropped 17.2% last month after falling 16.6% in March. Excluding orders for transportation equipment, which can be volatile from month to month, durable goods orders fell 7.4%.
New orders for cars, trucks and auto parts shrank 52.8%.
A category that tracks business investment — orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft — decreased 5.8% after falling 1.1% in March.
The lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing measures meant to contain COVID-19 have brought economic activity to a near standstill across the United States.
Still, last month's decline in durable goods orders was slightly less than economists had expected.
Separately Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that the economy shrank at a 5% annual pace in the January-March period, worse than initially reported.
Greogry Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said the durable goods report is another sign that the economy will struggle to bounce back.
“Overall, depressed global and domestic demand, broken supply chains, low oil prices, tighter financial conditions, elevated uncertainty and lingering virus fear will prevent a V-shaped recovery’’ in the second half, Daco wrote in a research note. “Still, we anticipate a partial resumption of activity going into (the third quarter) as factories slowly resume operations.