New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods rose less than expected in March, but a second straight monthly increase in shipments suggested business investment accelerated in the first quarter amid a recovering energy sector.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, increased 0.2 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.1 percent gain in February.
Shipments of these so-called core capital goods rose 0.4 percent after jumping 1.1 percent in February. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government's gross domestic product measurement.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast core capital goods orders rising 0.5 percent last month after a previously reported 0.1 percent dip. March's modest increase suggests some loss of momentum in the manufacturing sector after recent strong growth.
Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy, is being underpinned by the energy sector revival.