An increase in defense orders pushed new orders for durable goods up 1.4 percent in June, the Commerce Department said yesterday.
Excluding defense, orders for durable goods -- products built to last three or more years -- were unchanged from May, the government said.
For the first six months of this year, durable goods orders have risen 5.3 percent from the same period in 1986.
"Rising exports are brightening the picture for durable goods producers," Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said.
But Priscilla Luce Trumble of Wharton Economics, an economics consulting concern in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., noted that inflation accounts for about two-thirds of that 5.3 percent growth.
Still, the reports lately are better than last year, she said.
June's 1.4 percent increase to a seasonally adjusted total of $108.5 billion follows no change from April to May.
It went up because the Pentagon increased its orders for capital equipment by 15.8 percent. Orders for defense equipment fell 13.9 percent the previous month.
The Commerce Department said those orders were spread among the various items that make up defense capital goods, including ordnance, communications equipment, aircraft, missiles and parts, tanks and ship-building equipment.
Michael Evans, a private economic analyst in Washington, said it was mostly for aircraft.
The Commerce Department also reported that durable goods shipments in June rose 1.6 percent to $104.1 billion, ending a two-month decline.
Unfilled orders increased 1.2 percent to $372 billion, the third straight month the category rose by that percentage.
Among major industries, new orders for electrical machinery rose 6.7 percent to $19.6 billion, mainly because of higher demand for nondefense communications equipment.
New orders for primary metals increased for a fifth straight month, gaining 5.3 percent to reach $10 billion.
Nonelectrical machinery orders dropped 5.4 percent to $16.6 billion, while orders for transportation equipment slipped 0.7 percent to $29.4 billion.
"What we're seeing now, and will continue to see this summer, is that the auto industry is hurting, but most other sectors are seeing real improvement," Trumble said.
"The real question is how much that auto decline will drag down everyone else."