Durable Goods Orders Fall Less than Expected in April


New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods slipped 0.5 percent in April as demand for civilian aircraft plunged, but a key barometer of business investment spending posted a surprisingly sharp gain, a government report showed on Wednesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting durable goods orders to drop 1.0 percent as the weak U.S. economy has impacted the construction and motor vehicle industries.

Stock futures extended gains, prices for U.S. Treasury bonds fell, and the dollar rose against major currencies.

The numbers pointed to surprising resilience in an economy battered by a deep housing slump, a credit crunch, and high oil prices.

"It really becomes hard to suggest that we have got a full-fledged recession here," said T.J. Marta, fixed income strategist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

Stripping out transportation, durable goods orders rose 2.5 percent, the biggest gain since July, the Commerce Department said. Analysts were expecting a 0.5 percent decrease.

Transportation orders were off 8 percent as civilian aircraft orders tumbled 24.4 percent.

However, nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending, jumped 4.2 percent, the biggest rise since December. Analysts had forecast that category would drop 0.5 percent after a 1.0 percent slide in March.

Electrical equipment orders surged 27.8 percent, the steepest increase on record.

Shipments rose 1.2 percent, the sharpest gain since January.

Mortgage Applications Fell

A separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed that applications for U.S. home mortgages slipped for a second consecutive week as borrowing rates crept higher.

The trade group's index of mortgage application activity was at the lowest level since the week ended April 25, suggesting tight credit conditions and falling home prices continued to depress the housing market.

Other reports showed sluggish retail sales.

The International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS Securities said their index of chain stores sales was unchanged last week, with the year on year gain holding at 1.5 percent.

Separately, Redbook Research said its chain stores sales index was up 1.7 percent over the last year.

"Consumers remain caution in their discretionary spending as a rsult of the record high gasoline prices," Michael Niemira, ICSC chief economist, said in a statement.