New orders for American-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in February, which suggested business spending may stall in the second quarter after a gain to start the year.
But a surge in shipments amid demand for machinery and electrical equipment supported predictions for an acceleration in business investment in the first quarter.
Manufacturing is recovering from a prolonged slump, driven by the energy sector, bucking a slowdown in the broader economy. The Federal Reserve last week described business investment as appearing to have “firmed somewhat.”
“The evidence is building that manufacturing activity is on something of an upswing and that capital spending on business equipment is poised to advance for the second consecutive quarter,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.
The Commerce Department said on Friday that non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, dipped 0.1 percent last month