US durable goods orders sink in March

New orders for durable goods in the United States sank in March, with most categories slipping after February's aircraft sales-driven rise.

New orders of all durable goods dropped 5.7 percent from February to $216.3 billion; they were also down 0.1 percent from a year earlier.

Excluding volatile transportation equipment sales -- which include aircraft -- new orders lost 1.4 percent, after the 1.7 percent fall from January to February.

Most categories lost ground, with the only real positive gain coming in computers and electronics products, where orders rose 1.0 percent.

Orders for defense-related goods fell sharply as the government implements the sequester budget cuts.

The numbers offered more evidence of a spring sag in the economy, a combination of the impact of slower growth outside the country, government spending cuts and consumer pocketbooks tightened by a payroll tax increase.

"It appears slower orders growth has given way to sideways orders growth rather than outright declines," said Chris Low of FTN Financial.

"The big drop in defense orders, however, suggests government spending fell perhaps as much as two percent in (the first quarter). If so, GDP growth could be weaker than 2.5 percent."

The US government releases its first estimate of first quarter GDP growth on Friday.