Durable goods orders hit six-month high

Durable goods orders rose 4.5 percent in August, the most in six months, driven primarily by a jump in aircraft demand.

Durable goods are items that are expected to last three years or more. Strong durable goods orders are a signal of a solid economy, as businesses and individuals are only willing to shell out the money for big-ticket items when they are confident in their economic prospects.

However, the solid reading was primarily due to an increase in orders for aircraft, cars and other transportation equipment. Excluding these items orders increased only 0.1 percent.

U.S. manufacturing is expanding at a solid pace, with orders up 9.2 percent year-to-date.

A category of orders that is a proxy for business investment fell 0.5 percent in August after two strong months. Such orders are up 7.4 percent this year.

Other measures of the factory sector also point to solid growth. A survey of purchasing managers found that factory activity expanded in September at its fastest pace in 14 years. Production soared and manufacturers added jobs at a faster pace.

Separately, the U.S. government announced that the economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the fastest pace in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.