Core private-sector machinery orders expanded 4.4 percent in 2004 from the previous year, marking a second straight annual increase, the government said Thursday.

Core machinery orders totaled 11.54 trillion yen in 2004, up from 11.05 trillion yen in 2003, the Cabinet Office said.

Private-sector machinery orders are considered a leading indicator of corporate capital spending six to nine months ahead. These core orders exclude orders for ships and from utilities, which tend to vary widely due to their magnitude.

In December alone, core machinery orders dropped a seasonally adjusted 8.8 percent from the previous month.

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