There were two important reports on the U.S. economy released this morning. First, orders for U.S.-manufactured durable goods (items meant to last at least three years) rose in February by $7.4 billion (3.1 percent) to $247.7 billion, according to new data from the Census Bureau. That was significantly better than expected and the January figure was revised higher. Much of the strength was due to a rebound in aircraft bookings but even core durable goods orders, which exclude the volatile transportation component, posted a better-than-forecast 1.2 percent gain. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, i.e. core capital expenditures, an important proxy for U.S. business investment, lifted by 1.8 percent last month. That was more than double the anticipated increase and perhaps a sign that the recently passed tax legislation is still providing a boost to capital investment.
Elsewhere, sales of new single-family homes in America fell by 0.6 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 618K units, according to another new report from the Census Bureau. That was the third monthly decline in a row and the lowest headline reading since October. Regionally, new home sales rose in the Northeast (+19.4 percent) and the South (+9.0 percent) last month but fell in the West (-17.6 percent) and the Midwest (-3.7 percent). The inventory of new single-family homes in February lifted by 2.0 percent, and months’ supply increased to 5.9 based on the current (slower) sales pace. The median selling price of new houses sold in February was $326,800, 9.7 percent higher compared to this same period last year. The sales weakness seen last month is a reflection of continued supply constraints and higher mortgage rates. It will be worth monitoring this trend going forward since new home sales tend to head sharply lower ahead of a recession.
Sources: Econoday, U.S. Census Bureau, FRBSLPost author: Charles Couch