US durable goods unchanged in December

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods were unexpectedly unchanged in December amid a slump in transportation equipment, but demand elsewhere held up.

The Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said on Thursday that the unchanged reading in orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft meant to last three years or more, followed a 5.5% rebound in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast durable goods orders would rise 1.1%. Orders increased 4.4% on a year-over-year basis in December.

Manufacturing, which accounts for 10.3% of the economy, continues to be hamstrung by higher interest rates, which are curbing demand for goods and raising costs for investment.

Transportation equipment orders dropped 0.9% last month after surging by 15.3% in November. Motor vehicle and parts orders gained 0.4%. Civilian aircraft orders rose only 0.4% despite Boeing reporting on its website that it had received 371 orders for civilian aircraft, a jump from 114 in November. Defense aircraft orders fell 2.9%.

But there were increases in orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components, primary metals, machinery as well as computers and electronic products.

Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 0.3% after rising by an upwardly revised 1.0% in the prior month. These so-called core capital goods orders were previously reported to have rebounded 0.8% in November.

Core capital goods shipments gained 0.1%. Shipments of non-defense capital goods increased 0.6%.

These shipments feed into the calculation of equipment spending in the gross domestic product report. Business spending on equipment rebounded modestly in the fourth quarter after contracting in the July-September period.

The economy grew at a 3.3% annualized rate last quarter after expanding at a 4.9% pace in the third quarter.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)