Domestic orders down, imports of durable goods up?

This morning, the Census Bureau announced that

New orders for manufactured durable goods in March decreased $2.2 billion or 1.3 percent to $176.7 billion

But the press release neglects to point out that this number only includes domestic orders (see my post from earlier this week).  That is, new orders for domestic manufacturing only.  Orders for imported goods are excluded.

Companies may very well be ordering durable goods, but they are ordering them from overseas. That’s especially true in computers and electronics and automotive (we don’t have the March import numbers yet).

That means economists and journalists are misreporting this morning’s numbers. For example, an article on wsj.com said this morning

Orders for nondefense capital goods decreased by 7.5% last month. The orders are seen as a barometer of capital spending by businesses.

Are orders a barometer? There’s no way to tell.

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