Strong factory orders, auto sales brighten U.S. economic picture
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New orders for U.S. factory goods posted a record gain in July and auto sales last month accelerated to their highest level in 8-1/2 years, offering further bullish signals for the economy.
Another report on Wednesday from the Federal Reserve showed manufacturing expanding across a broad base of sectors and auto sales hitting "high levels" in recent weeks.
"U.S. economic activity continues to improve," said Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto.
The Commerce Department said new orders for manufactured goods jumped 10.5 percent in July on robust demand for aircraft and autos, compared to a 1.5 percent rise in June.
Orders excluding the volatile transportation category slipped 0.8 percent in July, but that drop followed a 1.4 percent increase the prior month, leaving intact the upbeat trend for manufacturing activity.
Separately, industry research firm Autodata Corp said auto sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.53 million units in August, the highest level since January 2006 and above Wall Street's expectations of a 16.6 million-unit pace.
Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) saw a 0.4 percent increase in sales, while Chrysler Group - a unit of Fiat SpA FIA.MI - reported a 20 percent surge. General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote), however, said its sales declined 1.2 percent.
Manufacturing is accelerating, with the Institute for Supply Management reporting on Tuesday that its gauge of factory activity hit its highest level in nearly 3-1/2 years in August. In addition, a measure of new orders touched a 10-year high. Continued...