Businesses cut back on their orders for heavy machinery, computers and autos in April, partly reflecting supply disruptions stemming from natural disasters in Japan.
The Commerce Department says orders to U.S. factories fell 1.2 percent in April and a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment dropped 2.3 percent.
Analysts believe much of the weakness will be temporary. Companies are having a hard time getting component parts because of production shutdowns in Japan after the March earthquake.
Orders to factories totaled $440.4 billion in April on a seasonally adjusted basis. That's 31.1 percent higher than the recession-low hit in March 2009. Manufacturing has been one of the strongest areas of the economy since the recession ended. But it has shown signs of slowing in recent months.