July Durable Goods Add Support to Recession View

by: Daryl Montgomery

After an existing home sales report yesterday revealed that the U.S. housing market is currently in worse shape than it was at the bottom of the Credit Crisis/Great Recession, July's durable goods report today further confirmed that the U.S. economy is sinking into a recession.

The headline number, an increase of 0.3%, seemed OK if not particularly good. Only a single item, a huge 76% increase in commercial aircraft sales, was responsible for keeping the number above zero, however. Durable goods orders ex-transportation fell 3.8% in July. The transportation number, particularly the aircraft sales component, is highly volatile. A strong number one month can be followed by a very negative number the next month. As for the rest of the components of the report, some were eyepoppingly bad.

Machinery orders, which fell 15%, were the weakest number in the report. It wasn't just the extent of the drop that made it so awful, but more importantly it was the biggest decline on record. Yes, the drop was larger than the decline that took place at the bottom of the Credit Crisis/Great Recession when the U.S. economy was falling off a cliff. Computer orders were down 12.7%. Capital goods orders were down 8.0%, the biggest drop since January 2009, just after the Credit Crisis/Great Recession bottom. Orders for electrical equipment and appliances were down 5.9%.

Altogether, July durable goods orders indicate that the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy is rapidly turning south. This is particularly troubling because it was manufacturing that had the biggest upturn in the last year (the four times larger service sector didn't improve nearly as much). What will provide economic growth, now that manufacturing is weakening? An even more important question is: If some of the manufacturing numbers are as bad as or worse than the bottom of the Credit Crisis/Great Recession, and this is also true of the real estate market, how is it possible that the U.S. economy is not currently in another recession?

Disclosure: No positions