Orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods edged higher in August and gave a signal that the factory sector gained a step midway through the third quarter.
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Durable goods orders rose 0.1 percent during the month, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.
The report showed that shipments of non-military capital goods other than aircraft grew 1.3 percent during the month, snapping two straight months of declines.
The reading for these so-called "core" shipments feeds directly into the government's estimates for total economic growth, and the increase supports the view that government austerity is taking only a modest bite from national output.
New orders for core durable goods, which is viewed as a gauge of business spending plans, rose 1.5 percent in August. That was below economists' expectations and not enough to make up for the 3.3 percent decline registered in July.
Demand for new cars drove the overall gain in new orders of durable goods, which include everything from toasters to tanks. Economists polled by Reuters had expected overall goods orders to be flat.
Excluding transportation, new orders fell 0.1 percent.