Friday, October 03, 2008

Economy Watch

US Factory Orders Plunge More Than Expected

Government data show orders to U.S. factories plunged by the largest amount in nearly two years as the credit strains are hitting manufacturing with full force.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that orders for manufactured goods dropped by 4 percent in August, compared to July. That's a much worse performance than the 2.5 percent decline that economists had expected. It was the biggest setback since a 4.8 percent plunge in October 2006.

The weakness was led by big declines in orders for aircraft, down 38.1 percent, and autos, which fell by 10.6 percent, the worst performance in nearly six years.

The report on manufactured goods showed that durable goods, items expected to last three years, dropped by 4.8 percent in August. Orders for nondurable goods, items such as petroleum products, food and clothing, fell by 3.3 percent.

The dismal report on orders for August followed a report Wednesday from the Institute for Supply Management showing that manufacturing activity fell to the lowest level since the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

U.S. Employers Cut 159,000 Jobs in September

Employers slashed payrolls by 159,000 in September, the most in more than five years, a worrisome sign that the economy is hurtling toward a deep recession.

The Labor Department’s fresh snapshot, released Friday, also showed that the nation’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.1 percent as hundreds of thousands of people streamed out of the work force for any number of reasons.

The reduction in payrolls was much sharper than the 100,000 cuts economists were forecasting. They expected the jobless rate to be unchanged.

Banks, Firms Borrow Record Amount from Fed

Banks and investment firms borrowed in record amounts from the Federal Reserve's emergency lending facility over the past week, providing fresh evidence of the credit stresses squeezing the country.

The Fed's report released Thursday said commercial banks averaged a record $44.5 billion in daily borrowing over the past week. That compared with a daily average of $39.36 billion in the previous week. On Wednesday alone, banks borrowed a record $49.5 billion, surpassing the previous high that came one day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

For the week ending Wednesday, investment firms drew a record $147.7 billion. That was up significantly from $88.15 billion in the previous week. This category was broadened last week to include any loans that were made to the U.S. and London-based broker-dealer subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. On Wednesday alone, investment firms borrowed a record $146.6 billion, breaking the previous record set on Sept. 24.

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