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Orders for US durable goods fall 5.7 pct. in March

WASHINGTON — Orders for long-lasting US factory goods fell in March by the most in seven months. The drop reflected a steep decline in commercial aircraft demand and little growth in orders that signal future business investment.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders­ for durable goods declined 5.7 percent in March. That followed a 4.3 percent gain in February, which was revised lower.

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Weaker economies overseas and the impact of across-the-board government spending cuts have made businesses more cautious. That’s reduced demand for manufactured goods. Spending on defense equipment also fell sharply last month.

Durable goods are items expected to last at least three years. Orders for durable goods tend to fluctuate sharply from month to month and economists cautioned against reading too much into one monthly decline.

A measure of business investment plans, which include buying industrial machinery and computers, ticked up 0.2 percent last month. Economists pay close attention to so-called core capital goods orders because they strip out more volatile defense and aircraft orders.

Increases last month in both orders and shipments of core capital goods suggest businesses spent more on equipment and software in the January-March quarter. That probably contributed to economic growth in the first quarter.

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