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Ahead of the Bell: US factory orders

US factory orders expected to drop for seventh straight month in February

Associated Press
US factory orders rose in February for first time since July
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In this March 13, 2015 photo, robots fasten parts on a new 2015 aluminum-alloy body Ford F-150 truck in the body shop at the company's Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. The Commerce Department releases factory orders for February on Thursday, April 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Commerce Department reports on February factory orders Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern.

FREE FALLING: Economists expect that orders fell 0.5 percent in February, extending a six-month losing streak, according to a survey by FactSet. Orders fell 0.2 percent in January, 3.5 percent in December, 1.7 percent in November, 0.7 percent in October, 0.5 percent in September and 1.5 percent in August.

U.S. manufacturers have been hurt by disappointing economic growth in China, Europe and Japan and by a strong dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas.

A trade group reported Wednesday that U.S. factories expanded last month but at a weaker pace. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its manufacturing index slid to 51.5 in March from 52.9 in February. It was the fifth straight drop. But any reading above 50 signals growth.

AN ENCOURAGING SIGN: Economists welcomed a 0.5 percent January increase in orders in a category of factory orders viewed as a proxy for business investment; the category had registered 0.5 percent drops in both December and November.

Factories have added jobs for 19 straight months, longest streak since the mid-1990s. Last year, manufacturers created 215,000 jobs, most since 1997.

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