Orders to U.S. factories for manufactured goods fell 2.3% in March, the biggest drop in almost two years, while the U.S. trade deficit continued to swell, hitting a new record with Japan, the government reported today.
New orders on a seasonally adjusted basis fell to $194.17 billion in March following a 1.3% drop in February, the Commerce Department said. The March decline was the biggest since a 3.3% decrease in April, 1984.
Without a 45.1% jump in March defense orders, factory orders would have fallen an even sharper 4.1%, which would have been the biggest decline since May, 1980.
The report provided further evidence that U.S. manufacturers have yet to see much relief from the battering they have received from foreign competition.
In a separate report today, the Commerce Department said the country’s foreign trade deficit widened to $14.52 billion last month as imports of manufactured goods climbed to an all-time high.
Last month’s shortfall in the trade of merchandise ranging from raw materials and farm commodities to oil and manufactured goods was up from February’s deficit of $12.49 billion but still below the all-time high of $16.46 billion in January.
The country’s trade deficit with Japan reached a monthly record of $5.52 billion, 27.5% higher than the deficit in February.
The deterioration last month occurred even though falling oil prices cut the value of petroleum imports by 13%.
U.S. imports hit a record $25.28 billion last month, 13.9% higher than in February.