US manufacturing recovery continues despite weak December

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The troubles with Boeing once again hit US durable goods orders, but there's evidence the sector is recovering

The ongoing struggles of the aviation sector held back US durable goods orders at the end of 2020, but the manufacturing sector continued to slowly recover from the Covid-19 downturn, government data showed on Wednesday.

Orders for big-ticket manufactured items grew a measly 0.2 percent in December, well below expectations and November's upwardly revised growth, though there's evidence the sector's recovery is continuing after the coronavirus disrupted factory operations across the United States earlier in 2020.

Orders were up overall 1.4 percent from December 2019, and Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics pointed to the 0.6 percent growth in capital goods excluding aircraft last month as further evidence the sector was on the mend.

"The initial surge recovered the ground lost at the start of the pandemic, and growth should now settle to a sustainable pace," he said in an analysis.

Holding back December's numbers overall were the ongoing struggles of Boeing, which is dealing with a wave of order cancelations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic even as its best-selling 737 MAX returns to the skies following its worldwide grounding.

New orders for non-defense aircraft and parts dropped 51.8 percent last month.

Growth in machinery orders, which rose 2.4 percent, filled the gap.

"The manufacturing sector is faring fairly well even as virus cases have surged that could disrupt supply chains and weigh on demand," Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said.