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Factory orders down again in January, but rate of decline lessened

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WASHINGTON -- Factory orders fell again in January, but the rate of decline lessened after a steeper-than-initially-estimated drop the previous month, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

New orders for manufactured goods, a key indicator of future factory output, were down 0.7% in January to $483 billion. Analysts projected orders would decline 0.5%.

It was the second straight monthly decline and the harsh winter weather in much of the country probably was a factor.

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December's decline was revised down to 2% from an initial estimate of 1.5%, the Commerce Department said. The updated figure was the worst since July.

A drop in orders for transportation equipment drove January's decline, falling 5.7% for the third decline in four months.

Orders for civilian aircraft were down 20.2%. Boeing Corp. has reported orders for its aircraft fell to 38 in January from 319 in December.

Excluding transportation, orders were up 0.2% in January.

Shipments also dropped in January for the second consecutive month, down 0.3%.

With orders and shipments down, inventories continued to rise. They were up 0.2% in January, marking the 13th increase in 14 months.

The Commerce Department report didn't mention the weather. But the Institute for Supply Management previously reported a steep January drop in its manufacturing index, with companies citing the winter cold and snow as a factor.

On Monday, ISM said factory growth rebounded in February, with new orders and inventories increasing after plunging in January.

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