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Higher aircraft demand lifts orders for long-lasting US factory goods; business spending falls

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In this Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 photo, appliances are on display at a Sears store in Berlin, Vt. Commerce Department reports on business orders for durable goods in September Friday Oct. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)The Associated Press

A jump in demand for commercial airplanes boosted orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods last month. But orders for most other goods fell as businesses cut spending, a possible sign of concern about the partial government shutdown that began Oct. 1.

The Commerce Department said Friday orders for durable goods rose 3.7 percent in September, above the 0.2 percent gain in August. But a 57.5 percent jump in aircraft orders accounted for nearly all the gain. Durable goods are meant to last at least three years.

Orders for core capital goods, which include industrial machinery and electrical equipment, fell 1.1 percent. August's 1.5 percent gain was revised sharply lower to 0.4 percent. Economists pay particular attention to core capital goods, which exclude aircraft, because they are a sign of business confidence.

The figures echo other economic data that suggest companies were reluctant to expand or invest in new equipment or hiring in September. Hiring also slowed last month.

Commercial aircraft is a volatile category that can swing widely from month to month. Boeing says it received orders for 127 planes in September, up from just 16 in August.

In September, demand fell for machinery, fabricated metals, electrical equipment and autos. Orders rose for computers and communications equipment and defense-related goods.

Excluding aircraft, autos and other transportation goods, orders fell for the third straight month.

The report contrasts with other recent data that pointed to a healthier factory sector.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, said factory activity expanded in September at the fastest pace in 2 ½ years. Production rose and manufacturers stepped up hiring, while new orders jumped, though not as quickly as the previous month.

And the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said last week that an index of regional manufacturing activity declined only slightly this month. Factories in the Philadelphia region received more orders, the Philly Fed said.

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