Durable goods orders hint at weak first quarter

Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:14am EDT
 
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By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods posted only a moderate increase in February, supporting the view that economic growth in the first quarter was shaping up to be lackluster.

Durable goods orders increased 2.2 percent last month, missing economists' forecasts and only partially reversing January's revised 3.6 percent decline, Commerce Department data showed on Wednesday.

A gauge of future business investment also fell short of forecasts.

"The economy is slowly improving, but it is definitely a halting recovery where we're not accelerating to any great degree," said Liam Dalton, president of Axiom Capital Management Inc in New York.

Manufacturing has been a key support for the U.S. recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, and a recent acceleration in job growth has boosted hopes the extra income will create a virtuous cycle that leads to more spending.

Still, many economists are skeptical hiring will accelerate in coming months and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Tuesday it was too soon to declare victory in the recovery. Regarding the possibility of further monetary stimulus to spur stronger growth, he said the bank was not taking any options off the table.

LACKLUSTER GROWTH

Wednesday's data suggested the factory sector might not be growing as fast as analysts had expected, and U.S. stocks were lower. U.S. government debt prices were little changed.   Continued...

 
Shoppers look at washers and dryers at a Home Depot store in New York, July 29, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton