According to the U.S. Census Bureau, shipments – up ten of the last eleven months – increased $2.5 billion or 0.6 percent to $422.3 billion. Shipments of manufactured durable goods increased while manufactured nondurable goods decreased – driven lower by petroleum and coal products.
Shipments of wood products rose 4.9 percent, to $7.3 billion dollars – the fourth consecutive monthly increase. Paper products shipments took a breather after rising for seven months, and remained unchanged.
Data from the Association of American Railroads provides another (and in this case, more pessimistic) view of shipping activity in the United States. Rail traffic fell by double-digit percentages in April, relative to March, but most categories are still well ahead of year-earlier volumes.
Inventories, up six of the last seven months, increased $2.6 billion (0.5 percent) to $521.7 billion. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was unchanged at 1.24. Inventories of manufactured durable goods increased 0.7 percent, thanks to primary metals. Plastic and rubber products pushed inventories of manufactured nondurable goods higher. Wood products inventories backed off 0.7 percent, after four months of increases, while paper products rose 1.0 percent.
New orders for manufactured goods, up twelve of the last thirteen months, increased $5.1 billion (1.2 percent) to $420.1 billion. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.5 percent. Durable goods orders increased $5.2 billion (2.8 percent) to $193.8 billion - a fifth monthly increase. New orders for nondurable goods decreased $0.2 billion (0.1 percent) to $226.3 billion.