Capital goods orders declined last month

New orders for U.S.-made capital goods fell more than expected in April, further evidence that the economy was slowing after a growth spurt in the first quarter that was driven by exports and a buildup of inventories.

The report from the Commerce Department on Friday also showed orders for these goods were not as strong as previously thought in March and shipments were weak over the past two months, indicating that manufacturing was quickly losing ground.

The sector, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is being squeezed by businesses placing fewer orders while working off stockpiles of unsold goods in warehouses. The inventory overhang is concentrated in the automotive sector, which is experiencing slow sales. Boeing’s move to cut production of its troubled 737 MAX planes is also hurting manufacturing.

The loss of momentum came even before a recent escalation in the trade war between the United States and China, leading economists to expect demand for capital goods to remain soft.

Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, dropped 0.9 percent last month as demand softened almost across the board. These orders of core capital goods rose 0.3 percent in March instead of 1 percent as previously reported.

— Reuters

Musk's SpaceX launches 60 sattelites

SpaceX has launched 60 little satellites, the first of thousands that founder Elon Musk plans to put in orbit for global Internet coverage.

The recycled Falcon rocket blasted off late Thursday night. The first-stage booster landed on an ocean platform following liftoff, as the tightly packed cluster of satellites continued upward.

Musk said Friday that all 60 flat-panel satellites were deployed a few hundred miles above Earth and were online. Each weighs 500 pounds and has a single solar panel and a krypton-powered thruster for raising and maintaining altitude. The satellites are able to automatically dodge sizable pieces of space junk.

The orbiting constellation — named Starlink — will grow in the next few years, Musk said.

Twelve launches of 60 satellites each will provide reliable and affordable Internet coverage throughout the United States, he said. When the total hits 24 launches, the network will serve most of the populated world; at 30, it will cover the entire planet.

Other companies have similar plans, including Project Kuiper from Jeff Bezos’s Amazon and OneWeb. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

— Associated Press

Also in Business

United Continental Holdings is seeking to oust Avianca Holdings' chairman and largest shareholder, just six months after the two airlines agreed to form a joint venture. The U.S. carrier took legal action Friday in Bogota on a defaulted $456 million loan it made to German Efromovich, Avianca's chairman, as part of the proposed partnership. United's filing sets up a battle for control of Latin America's second-biggest airline.

The Bank of England is warning that the safety of the financial system could be at risk from big investment banks extending loans against borrowers' share holdings. Banks in London lost more than $1.1 billion on a single margin loan deal in 2017, Sam Woods, chief executive of the BOE's Prudential Regulation Authority, said in a speech in London.

Michigan's Democratic governor and Republican leaders announced Friday morning that they've reached an agreement on legislation to cut the country's highest insurance premiums. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement that the "agreement in concept" will "lower costs and protect coverage for Michigan drivers." She said the deal will cut rates for drivers and offer choices among coverage levels.

Pennsylvania's Treasury Department is accusing about a dozen large financial firms of working together to illegally inflate the price of bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over seven years. Named as defendants are Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, First Tennessee, TD Securities, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, JPMorgan Chase, Cantor Fitzgerald, UBS and HSBC.

— From news services