US durable goods data suggests strong business equipment spending

By ReutersEconomic IndicatorsReuters

WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) - New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods increased more than expected in September and shipments rose for an eighth straight month, pointing to robust business spending that should help to mitigate the impact on the economy from the hurricanes.

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The sign of strong business investment on equipment in the third quarter supports views that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates for a third time this year in December.

"The Fed can continue to remove its monetary stimulus confident that investment is heating back up after the downturn in orders and shipments a couple of years ago," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

"Businesses don't invest in the future if they don't think consumers will be there to buy their goods and services."

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 1.3 percent last month after an upwardly revised 1.3 percent increase in August.

Economists had forecast orders of these so-called core capital goods increasing 0.5 percent last month after a previously reported 1.1 percent jump in August. Core capital goods orders advanced 3.8 percent year-on-year.

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Shipments of core capital goods climbed 0.7 percent after soaring 1.2 percent in August. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government's gross domestic product measurement. Core capital goods shipments have now increased for eight straight months.

The dollar rose against a basket of currencies after the data. Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond rising to a seven-month high. U.S. stock index futures slipped.

Business spending on equipment is expected to have contributed to economic growth in the third quarter, which could help to cushion the blow on GDP from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Commerce Department report also showed inventories increasing 0.6 percent in September, the largest gain since June 2015.

This bolsters expectations that inventory accumulation provided a boost to growth in the third quarter. Economists estimate that Harvey and Irma, which devastated parts of Texas and Florida, sliced off as much as one percentage point from third-quarter GDP.

The government is due to publish its advance GDP estimate for the July-September quarter on Friday. According to a Reuters survey of economists, the economy probably grew at a 2.5 percent annualized rate in the July-September period, slowing down from the second quarter's brisk 3.1 percent pace.

Strong business spending on equipment is helping to support manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy.

Last month, orders for computers and electronic products increased 1.6 percent after surging 1.8 percent in August. There were also increases in orders for fabricated metal products. But orders for machinery, primary metals and electrical equipment, appliances and components fell.

Overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft meant to last three years or more, shot up 2.2 percent last month amid a 5.1 percent rise in demand for transportation equipment. Durable goods orders increased 2.0 percent in August.

Boeing reported on its website that it received 72 aircraft orders in September, up from 33 the prior month.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts edged up 0.1 percent last month after accelerating 2.8 percent in August. Unfilled orders for durable goods increased 0.2 percent in September after being unchanged the prior month.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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