Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Aircraft Sales Boost Factory Orders

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Aircraft Sales Boost Factory Orders

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A big increase in aircraft sales spurred a sixth consecutive rise in U.S. factory orders in January, sustaining the manufacturing strength that closed out 1993.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders rose 2.1 percent as the new year began, following a revised 1.4 percent gain in December.

The string of advances is the longest since one that ran from September 1987 to June 1988.

But the rise was due to highly volatile orders for aircraft and parts, and economists said it is unlikely manufacturing sales will continue to grow at the same pace.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 57,000 last week to the lowest level since Christmas. It was the steepest decline since August 1992.

Economists said the weather and other seasonal factors heavily influenced the report.

"On balance, the job market continues to improve sluggishly," analysts for Merrill Lynch and Co. said in a statement.

Also, the nation's big retailers reported generally good sales during February despite continuing harsh weather that kept many shoppers out of the stores. The Salomon Brothers retail index rose 6.4 percent last month after a 3.5 percent gain in January. The February advance is the biggest jump in the index since December 1992.

Laurence H. Meyer, a private economist in St. Louis, said the higher factory orders, which probably not sustainable, were in line with predictions for 3.5 percent overall economic growth in the first quarter.

"The last time transportation orders increased that much was in June, and they were down by more the next month," he said.

Transportation orders rose 14 percent, or $5 billion, to a total of $40.7 billion. Manufacturing orders excluding transportation increased a modest 0.3 percent and excluding defense orders were up 1.6 percent.

The surge in transportation orders could continue for awhile because Saudi Arabia has agreed to purchase 50 jetliners from U. …

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