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Durables Post Better-Than-Expected December

New orders for manufactured durable goods, generally big-ticket items designed to last at least three years, rose 1.3% in December, 2005, to $228.1 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Jan. 26. The percentage increase was better than the 1% economists generally expected; the dollar figure, Commerce said, was the highest since 1992.

"The 1.3% increase in durable goods orders for December 2005 ended a tumultuous quarter in the industrial sector," says Daniel J. Meckstroth, chief economist at Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, an Arlington, Va.-based business and public policy research group. "A series of hurricanes, the Boeing strike, wildly fluctuating oil prices and an automotive industry in disarray makes reading the month-to-month number difficult."

However, Meckstroth likes what capital goods orders excluding defense and aerospace have been showing. Those orders "grew at a 10.3% annual rate in the fourth quarter [of 2005] and were up 10.4% for the year as a whole," Meckstroth relates.

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