U.S. orders for machine tools were little changed in October, matching a three-month high, an industry survey showed yesterday

Bookings for domestic and foreign-made tools totaled $186.93 million in October, close to the $186.95 million booked the previous month that was the highest since June, the Association for Manufacturing Technology and the American Machine Tool Distributors Association said.

So far this year, machine tool orders are down 26.6 percent, and October orders were 0.6 percent lower than in the same month a year ago, the associations said. After seven months of expansion earlier this year, manufacturing contracted the last three months, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

"Reports noting the current contraction of the manufacturing economy and excess production capacity for durable goods underscore the need for U.S. manufacturers to adapt to permanent systemic changes taking place," said Ralph Nappi, president of the machine tool distributors' group in Rockville. "No doubt business will improve, but not to prior levels."

Machine tools are used to make a variety of parts, ranging from tractor hoods to airplane wings. Tool orders rose in three of the five regions surveyed. Orders rose 17.9 percent in the Northeast region, 13.3 percent in the Midwest and 4.9 percent in the South. Bookings decreased 17.1 percent in the central region and plunged 40.2 percent in the West.