Manufacturing rise boosts US outlook

AMERICAN factory orders surged in March, posting a fifth straight monthly increase that showed a healthy manufacturing sector well placed to support economic recovery.

On a strong day for US data, vehicle manufacturers also lined up to announce largely positive sales results. General Motors, the biggest US car seller, went first, announcing a 26 per cent uptick in sales for April.

The boost was largely driven by sales of new fuel-efficient compact cars, GM revealed. Some analysts argued that higher petrol prices were triggering demand for efficient cars, with more sales ahead this summer.

“I believe there is a call to action,” Pipas said of consumer purchases this spring. “Summer is the driving season, and I’m going to pull the trigger,” he said of consumers.

Earlier in the day the Commerce Department had announced a three per cent spike in new orders for all manufactured goods. New orders totalled $463bn (£280.8bn) in March, well above Wall Street economists’ forecasts for a 1.9 per cent pickup.

In addition, February orders that had been reported as dropping by 0.1 per cent were sharply revised to instead show a 0.7 per cent increase.

A cheaper US dollar has helped export industries and there are signs that producers are boosting investment in plants and equipment to benefit from it.

On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management said its gauge of factory activity eased to 60.4 in April from 61.2 in March -- still a brisk level since any reading over 50 shows business is expanding.