Orders for machine tools fell 32.7 percent in April from a year earlier, an industry trade group said in its monthly report. Orders were 5.3 percent lower than in March.
In the report released yesterday, the Association for Manufacturing Technology said orders fell last month to $194.7 million. They totaled $205.5 million in March, and $289.3 million in April 1990.
For the first four months of the year, orders declined 11.1 percent from the comparable period in 1990, to $845.1 million.
Machine tools are power-driven devices that cut or shape metal parts used in all sorts of products, from appliances and automobiles to aircraft and construction materials.
Because of the widespread use of machine tools, orders and shipments for them are considered indicative of the general state of industry.
Despite the overall weakness, the trade association expressed optimism for the machine tool industry, largely because foreign orders, which set a record last year, had risen to $200.9 million through the first four months of this year. That is up 11.4 percent from the $180.4 million in foreign orders in the similar period last year. Foreign shipments have risen 37.1 percent so far this year, to $52.2 million.
Albert W. Moore, the president of the group, said, "Although the current domestic market is weak, foreign orders for machine tools continue to run ahead of last year, again demonstrating the competitiveness of the U.S. machine tool industry."
He said that U.S. tool makers led the world in productivity and that both the value of the dollar and U.S. wage levels put the domestic industry in a competitive position around the world.