Business Spending Likely Gained Momentum in First Quarter

New orders for U.S.-made capital goods rose less than expected in March, but a second straight monthly increase in shipments suggested business investment accelerated in the first quarter amid a recovering energy sector.

While other data on Thursday showed a bigger-than-expected increase in first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week, the trend in claims remained consistent with tightening labor market conditions.

The Commerce Department said non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, increased 0.2 percent last month after gaining 0.1 percent in February. Orders for these so-called core capital goods have now increased for six consecutive months.

Shipments of core capital goods rose 0.4 percent after jumping 1.1 percent in February. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement.

“Business investment appears to have some better momentum early in 2017 and, while growth is

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