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Jay McIntosh

Furniture factory orders up 3% in July

Shipments rise 15% as companies work off backlogs
 Factory table for July 10Factory table for July 10
HIGH POINT —- U.S. residential furniture factory orders in July were up 3% from July 2009, the smallest year-to-year increase since last October, according to Smith Leonard.

For the year to date, orders were up 9%, the accounting and consulting firm said. In the same period last year, orders were down 20% from 2008.

Despite the small rise in orders, industry shipments in July were up 15% from a year earlier as factories continued to eat into their backlogs. For the first seven months of 2010, shipments were up 8% from a year ago.

About 45% of the respondents to Smith Leonard's factory survey said they had order increases in July compared with a year earlier, down from 69% in June. As has been the case in recent months, factories reported widely varying results, some with good sales gains and others off considerably.

"The results for July orders were somewhat disappointing, though really not unexpected based on conversations with those in the industry," Ken Smith, managing director of Smith Leonard, wrote in his monthly Furniture Insights newsletter.

"We are not expecting August results to improve that much and September conversations have been mixed. We continue to hear of good weeks and bad weeks, with little concentrated traction," he said.

While the recovery continues to be "painfully slow," he said one piece of good news among the economic indicators is that consumer debt continues to decline. That indicates when the economy picks up steam, consumers should have the capacity to buy more furniture, Smith said.

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