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PC sales no longer a reliable indicator of business growth

The latest numbers on sales of durable goods come out today. Analysts used to watch computer sales for what they might tell us about business growth, but those numbers alone aren't a good enough indicator anymore.

David Brancaccio: There's news just now that orders for long-lasting, so-called "durable" goods rose less than expected in April -- a scant two-tenths of one percent.  Durable goods are things like airplanes, cars, even computers.  Analysts have watched computer sales in the past for what they might tell us about economic growth.

But as Marketplace's Bob Moon reports PC sales may not be much of an bellweather anymore.

 


Bob Moon: It's long been accepted that employers need to update their computers -- especially when they're hiring.

Frank Gillett is a tech analyst at Forrester Research.

Frank Gillett: Add new employees, generally you're going to buy a new computer for them.

Trouble is, now it's not so simple. Fierce competition has cut PC prices, and businesses could be taking advantage of that just to refresh their current technology needs.

David Daoud is an analyst for IDC.

David Daoud: You don't really see companies hiring the type of workers that may need new technology and therefore, they're still focusing on low-end, entry-level systems.

And Forrester's Gillett says the growing popularity of tablet computers is making things even more complicated. He says businesses are re-thinking what kind of machines they buy.

Gillett: There are significant numbers of people -- sales people, field service, executives -- who get up and move around a lot. And for them, a tablet may change the type of computer they seek to buy.

Gillett says that's made it important to watch both PC and tablet sales as an indicator of business growth -- and tablet sales keep rising.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.
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