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Appliance Shipments Spin Dry

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Factory shipments of major appliances fell 6.4 percent in March compared to last year’s wholesale sales, according to the latest monthly tallies from Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

The March figures continue the consecutive monthly declines that began in December, although the downturn has been abetting from January’s 17 percent plummet.

Cooking appliances was the only category to see positive sales, with a 7.5 percent increase over March 2000. The gain was solely attributable to microwave ovens, whose factory sales surpassed the year-ago level by 16.8 percent. By contrast, all manner of electric and gas ranges slid downward, with built-in gas ranges, off 20.6 percent.

The home comfort category, down 21.1 percent, took the biggest hit, deflated mostly by sales of room air conditioners.

The specially designated AHAM 6 group, which consists of washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers and free-standing and built-in ranges, reflected the carnage. Factory shipments for this snapshot category were down 7.8 percent from last year.

Though the March’s numbers can be largely attributed to the slumping economy, the declines are also exaggerated by their comparison to last year’s record shipments.