The U.S. Commerce Department revealed that the latest business investment metrics are faltering as a result of global economic uncertainty.
Orders for durable goods, manufactured products intended to last for at least three years grew to a seasonally-adjusted 1.2 percent in December from the previous month as a result of more aircraft and vehicle orders. However, when stripping out these orders for transportation products, orders actually great at a weaker 0.1 percent pace.
Furthermore, new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft fell 0.7% in December, which represents the fourth decline since August 2018. Long-term growth increased 2.5% on the year, but was down from 13 percent in September 2017.
“Equipment investment growth slowed further in the fourth quarter, and we expect it to remain weak for most of this year,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “There has been a clear deterioration in global manufacturing conditions in recent months.”
Global Growth Concerns
Uncertainty regarding global growth appears to be the culprit as the International Monetary Fund lowered its global growth forecast last month, pointing to ongoing trade wars dampening China’s economic outlook as well as rising interest rates in the United States.
“Higher trade uncertainty will further dampen investment and disrupt global supply chains,” said IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath.
The IMF trimmed its growth expectations to 3.5 percent from 3.7 percent. Global growth outlook for 2020 was also cut to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent.
“I view the softness in business investment as a response to policy-related uncertainties, starting last summer with the imposition of tariffs on China, which raised the prospect of a trade war,” wrote Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, in a note to clients. “Those uncertainties were certainly greatly exacerbated by the federal government shutdown in December and January.”
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