The monthly good orders report for March comes out on Thursday morning, just shy of the gross domestic products report as well as President Donald Trumps 100th day in office. The report shows the health of the manufacturing sector and, as a result, a foreshadow of business investment spending.
Overall, the 2017 durable good order numbers have been increasing, but not booming. A steady growth that has lasted for months now, has left economists puzzled or expecting more of the same in the coming months.
Economists polled by Bloomberg estimate an increase equivalent to the estimate for last month, which ended up growing by 1.7% – slightly higher than expectations. To understand where these estimates come from, how the numbers will play into the economy at large, and why you should care, consider these five things when reading Thursday morning’s report
1. Flight Risk
Aircraft orders, which unexpectedly surged for not one, but two consecutive months, carried durable good orders much higher than economist expectations last month. Boeing had a large order come in, but those are generally volatile and at risk of cancellation. March’s overall numbers could be the lowest of the year if aircraft orders don’t increase again, even if orders excluding transportation experience an increase.
2. Accounting for GDP
Inventory increases and shipments for durable good orders contribute directly to GDP. The GDP report will be released the very next day, making this is the last update that will be pulled into the numbers. “Those inventories and shipments have an immediate impact on how we think about the first quarter,” said Samuel Coffin, an economist at UBS Investment Bank. Shipments of core capital goods – non-defense capital goods excluding transportation – experienced a decrease in January, which was offset an increase in February. March’s shipments are expected to continue to rise given the previous months’ inventories and new orders, but it is never certain when those orders will go through.
3. This Man and His Tax Plan
President Trump revealed a tax plan on Wednesday, just a few days shy of his 100-day marker, that would favor small and large businesses. His plan to decrease the tax on businesses from 30% to 15% will likely result in a boost of business confidence and increased investment with less being paid in taxes, all of which will make a strong year out of 2017 for manufacturers. Meanwhile, productivity and job creation will be more dependent on the wait-and-see side of things.
4. Equipped For What’s Ahead
In other Trump news: This is the first report since his failure to deliver on the Affordable Healthcare Act, which was announced dead on arrival the same day that the durable good orders report came out last month. Gains in new orders – particularly in machinery – had long been fueled by Trump’s promise to increase spending on infrastructure. “Equipment had been in recession for a number of quarters before the fourth quarter, so fourth quarter last year was particularly strong,” said Jason Schenker, the president and founder of Prestige Economics. This number could be a look into whether the president’s failure to act on one promise has diminished any confidence in his promises related to the manufacturing sector, though stocks for Caterpillar, which manufactures construction machinery, have been on the rise.
5. What The Past Will Tell US About The Future
An adjustment to February’s core capital goods could turn the proxy for business capital spending into a positive, marking the sixth consecutive increase, even though the numbers have been fairly flat. January’s core capital goods experienced an upward adjustment from a negative to a positive, and the same could be the fate for February. “It’s been a little surprising given how strong the business surveys have been, that the investment data hasn’t been stronger,” said Lewis Alexander, an economist at Nomura Securities. “In that context, some sort of positive backward revisions wouldn’t surprise me.” Economists warn that one month’s data shouldn’t be taken too seriously for this metric, but as a trend it is more serious: capital goods orders generally begin to slip 6 to 12 months prior to an economic downturn.