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Factory Orders Fall for 2nd Straight Month

Associated Press

Orders placed with U.S. factories fell for the second consecutive month in September, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, with demand dropping sharply for manufactured goods other than defense materials.

Factory orders slipped by 0.4 percent, or $1.3 billion, in September to $368.3 billion, following a decrease of 0.3 percent in August that reversed a months-long trend of increases. They were the first back-to-back declines since November and December of 2002.

Economists had expected a 0.5 percent increase.

It was the first economic indicator to be released after Tuesday's election. The health of the economy and the availability of jobs were frequent sparring issues during the bitter presidential campaign, as President Bush insisted that his tax cuts had helped the economy rebound and spurred job creation. Democratic challenger John Kerry contended the tax reductions had mostly benefited the wealthy while piling up the government deficit.

Orders for durable goods - costly manufactured items expected to last at least three years - rose 0.2 percent in September. Orders for computers and electronic products scored the biggest increase, 9.6 percent, boosted by a jump in demand for military communications equipment as the war in Iraq continued.

That followed a steep decline of 27.8 percent in such equipment in August.

When defense materials are subtracted, new factory orders dropped a full 1 percent in September.

But the outlook for manufacturing brightens when orders for transportation equipment are excluded from the date, with demand for non-transportation goods rising by 0.3 percent.



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