Machine tool orders fell 27.1% in January from December to $230.8 million, the National Machine Tool Builders' Assn. said.
The January decline followed a 13.4% gain in December orders from November and points to slow growth in the economy during the month.
Machine tools orders are an indication of capital investment by manufacturers of durable goods, which are items such as refrigerators and cars that last at least three years. The figures are often volatile from month to month.
In its monthly statistical report, the tool industry trade association said Friday that total orders were down 22.4% from a year earlier.
Last month, domestic orders of metal-cutting tool orders totaled $145.5 million, a drop of 24% from December's $191.5 million and a 29.3% fall from the previous year's total of $205.75 million.
Domestic metal-forming tool orders fell 6% to $56.60 million from December's net of $60.20 million and were down 6.1% overall from year-ago figures.
The association said the backlog of orders in January was $2.26 billion, up from the December backlog of $2.19 billion.
Shipments of domestic metal cutting tools fell 52% to $89.50 million from December's $186.4 million. Metal forming shipments also fell to $42.20 million from $64.30 million, a 34.4% drop from December.
The association said total shipments of cutting and forming machine tools fell 47.5% last month to $131.7 million from $250.7 million in December and were up 4.8% from the $125.6 million in shipments in January last year.