March 5, 2015 / 3:13 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. factory orders fall for sixth straight month

Workers operate the first assembly line started at the new Bicycle Corporation of America plant in Manning, South Carolina, November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Randall Hill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New orders for U.S. factory goods unexpectedly fell in January, posting their sixth straight monthly decline, a sign of weakness in the manufacturing sector.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday new orders for manufactured goods slipped 0.2 percent after a revised 3.5 percent decline in December.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected factory orders to gain 0.2 percent in January after a previously reported 3.4 percent tumble in December.

The department also said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft - seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans – rose 0.5 percent instead of the 0.6 percent advance reported last month.

Manufacturing has been hurt by softening demand in Europe and Asia as well as a strong dollar and lower crude oil prices, which have caused some energy companies to either delay or cut back on capital expenditure projects.

A labor dispute at U.S. West Coast ports, which has since been resolved, also has weighed on factory activity through disruptions to the supply chain. There is optimism the sector will regain momentum in the second quarter.

Unfilled orders at factories fell 0.2 percent in January, declining for a second straight month.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, were revised up to show a 0.1 percent gain in January instead of a 0.3 percent fall.

Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao

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