As I have pointed out repeatedly, the Republicans story about how their corporate tax cut will benefit everyone hinges on the idea that it will kick off a huge round of new investment. In their telling, investment is hugely responsive to tax rates. This means their tax cut will spark an investment boom. The higher levels of investment will increase productivity, which will eventually lead to higher wages.
We got our first weak test of this story with the Commerce Department's release of advanced data on capital goods orders for December. As I pointed out, these are orders, not deliveries, so fast-moving companies should have been able to get some in before the end of the month.
Even though the tax bill was not signed until almost the end of the year, its passage was virtually certain by the middle of the month. Furthermore, the outlines had been known since Labor Day, so unless a corporation's management was sleeping on the job, they had four months to plan their response.
As it turned the initial release showed a modest 0.1 percent drop in new orders for capital goods. Today the Commerce Department released its full report on manufacturing orders for January, with more complete data. This showed a 0.5 percent drop in orders for non-defense capital goods (0.4 percent, excluding aircraft).
Perhaps we will see a different story in future months, but so far it doesn't look like corporate America is feeling inspired to undertake an investment just yet.