by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted Feb 3, 2015 8:06 am MDT US factory orders fell 3.4 per cent in December in fifth straight monthly decline AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email In this Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 photo, a worker kneels on an engine of a Boeing 737-800 airplane being assembled, at Boeing’s 737 facility in Renton, Wash. The Commerce Department reports on U.S. factory orders for December, on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) WASHINGTON – Orders to U.S. factories dropped for a fifth consecutive month in December, while a key category that signals business investment plans fell for a fourth straight month.Factory orders declined 3.4 per cent in December after a 1.7 per cent drop in November, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the biggest drop since a 10 per cent plunge in August and marked the fifth straight month that orders have fallen.Demand in a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans edged down 0.1 per cent after bigger declines in the previous three months.The stronger U.S. dollar and global weakness have hurt American exports, but economists are still optimistic that surging domestic demand will result in a rebound in factory orders this year.Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said that while the 3.4 per cent drop in overall orders was bigger than expected, much of the weakness reflected falling oil prices, which lowered orders for nondurable goods. She also noted that the slip in business investment was a smaller decline than the initial estimate of a 0.6 per cent drop in this category.The weakness in December was led by a 55.5 per cent plunge in demand in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. Demand for autos was up 1.1 per cent, and the overall transportation category fell 9.1 per cent.Orders for all durable goods fell 3.3 per cent, a slight revision from a preliminary report last week which had durable goods falling 3.4 per cent in December.Demand for nondurable goods such as paper, chemicals and food fell 3.4 per cent in December after a 1.2 per cent decline in November.Many categories showed weakness in December with demand for primary metals such as steel down 1.9 per cent, while orders for machinery dropped 3.2 per cent. In the machinery category, orders for oil drilling equipment were down 7.9 per cent, a decline that may reflect the big plunge in recent months in oil prices. Various oil companies have reported plans to cut back on exploration.The government reported that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew by at a moderate 2.6 per cent annual rate in the October-December quarter, a sharp slowdown from 5 per cent growth in the third quarter.Economists believe that the slowdown will be temporary, and growth will accelerate this year as consumer spending remains strong, reflecting solid hiring and a big drop in gas prices which is giving households more money to spend on other items.The hope is that the gain in consumer spending will be enough to offset a drag from the global economy, reflecting spreading weakness in many key export markets and a rising value of the dollar, which makes U.S. goods less competitive overseas.The expectation now is that the overall U.S. economy will grow at a rate above 3 per cent for all of 2015, given the country the best annual growth in a decade.Factory production in November surpassed its pre-recession peak, according to data from the Federal Reserve, helped by healthy gains at auto plants.
Finding a carer can be a nightmare, the founders of the new service sayCredit:Alamy Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. David Mowat, the minister for care and support, said: “This is an interesting and innovative proposal which will help raise awareness of the challenges faced by the vulnerable elderly, and those with specific conditions that are becoming increasingly common in our society. I look forward to hearing more about the results in due course.”Cera already offers a venture which guarantees a carer to a patient’s front door or hospital bed within four hours in some parts of the country.The start-up, which says it has just completed the largest ever seed round in European healthcare history, is backed by the heads of Just Eat and a former director of the World Economic Forum. Uber drivers will be trained to ferry the elderly home from hospital in an attempt to tackle record levels of NHS bedblocking.Ministers hailed the deal as an “interesting and innovative” response to the challenges faced by Britain’s ageing population.The partnership between Uber and the company, Cera, means drivers will be given special training in disabilities, with access to cars which can take wheelchairs.And Cera will join forces with the country’s largest NHS trust and with three local health groups to deliver home care for patients, including those with dementia and cancer.The NHS scheme could also result in Uber drivers being used to transport patients home from hospital, or to send carers out to customers.Dr Ben Maruthappu, Cera’s co-founder, said the new plans would “revolutionise” closer working between care and transport services – improving the lives of families.“Older people and those with disabilities will now have access to the highest quality drivers, while carers will be able to efficiently travel to ensure they can provide services in the right place at the right time,” he said.“These partnerships tackle major challenges in the NHS, cracking down on bed-blocking and delayed discharges, while providing high-quality and efficient care, said Dr Maruthappu, a junior doctor. The service run by the health start-up already allows families to book a carer online, and monitor the help given to their loved ones. Individual consumers will also be able to request specially trained Uber drivers to deliver paid-for care by the private care company, for those living in London.Jo Bertram, regional general manager at Uber, said the plans would improve mobility for some of society’s most vulnerable people.“Uber’s mission is for everybody to have access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation and this partnership brings us a step closer to making that a reality.“Simply by tapping a button on our app carers will be able to get to people quickly and efficiently, while those with mobility needs will have the freedom to get out and about,” she said. The NHS schemes cover a population of five million people across north London, as well as five hospitals run by Barts Health NHS Trust. The number of people who need help but do not receive it has risen by almost a fifth in a year, a report by Age UK showsCredit:PA Families will be guaranteed a visit from a carer within four hours, once the scheme is rolled out nationally Credit:Alamy