Friday, February 27, 2004

Durable-goods orders drop in January

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Factories saw orders for big-ticket goods drop by 1.8 percent in January, but much of that reflected huge declines in bookings for commercial and military airplanes.

The overall figure, released by the Commerce Department Thursday, obscured gains in other areas as the nation's manufacturers work to keep their recovery moving.

The 1.8 percent decrease in orders for "durable" goods - costly manufactured products expected to last at least three years - came after a revised 1.6 percent gain registered in December, which was better than previously estimated.

Although economists were forecasting a 1.4 percent rise in new bookings in January, the decline actually appeared to overstate the weakness.

In other economic news:

• The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits last week rose by 6,000 to 350,000, highlighting the uneven recovery taking place in the jobs market.

• Commerce reported that sales of new homes dipped by 1.7 percent in January, compared with December, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.1 million, as harsh winter weather hit some parts of the country.

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