New orders for key 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 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.
Shipments of these so-called 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.
Economists had forecast core capital goods orders rising 0.5 percent last month. March’s modest increase suggests a loss of momentum in the manufacturing sector after recent strong growth.