Durable Orders In The Spotlight

By John S. McClenahen Of the seven major economic reports due out this week -- including the Commerce Department's final figure for fourth-quarter 2003 GDP -- durable goods orders are likely to attract the most attention. Commerce is slated to release its data for February at 8:30 a.m. on March 24, and Merrill Lynch & Co. is looking for a 1.5% rise in the key indicator. Orders for durable goods, which include airplanes, appliances and other products designed to last for three years or more, fell 2.3% in January. "A good part of the decline in orders during January was in the transportation sector, which we anticipate will bounce back in February. Aircraft orders alone, which nose-dived 30% in January, should make up for lost ground in February," Merrill believes.

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