Washington — Orders to U.S. factories fell for a fourth straight month in November, with demand in a key category that signals business investment plans down for a third month.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday factory orders dropped 0.7 percent in November after a similar 0.7 percent fall in October. The November weakness came from decreases in demand for primary metals, industrial machinery and military aircraft.
A closely watched category that serves as a proxy for business investment spending dropped 0.5 percent in November, marking the longest stretch of weakness in this category since 2012.
Economists, however, remain optimistic that the drop in orders is a temporary soft patch and a stronger economy with increased consumer spending will trigger a rebound in demand in 2015.
The recent weakness in factory orders contrasts with an otherwise strong year for manufacturing, driven in part by strong auto sales.
Auto sales are expected to reach their highest level in a decade this year, bolstered by strong job gains and cheap gas.
The Federal Reserve reported that factory production rose 1.1 percent in November and is now up 4.8 percent over the past 12 months. That puts production above the previous high set just before the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.