The strong dollar and low oil prices continue to drag on the economy, as new orders for durable U.S. manufactured goods fell 2.8% in February, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The news was offset by the Labor Department’s revised report on unemployment claims dating back to 2011.

The decrease in durable good orders, down three of the last four months, followed a 4.2% January rise, the Commerce Department said. Excluding transportation, new orders fell 1% and, excluding defense, new orders dropped 1.9%.

Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, or “core capital goods orders,” fell 1.8%, after rising 3.1% in January (downwardly revised from the initial reporting of 3.4%).

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast durable goods orders falling 2.9% last month and orders for core capital goods slipping 0.1%.

Still, other recent reports showed an uptick in regional factory activity in March, fueling optimism that the manufacturing sector will actually expand this month, according to Reuters.

“We are putting a low weight on this (durable goods orders) report in judging the short-term state of manufacturing activity,” RDQ Economics chief economist John Ryding told the news service.

Separately, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 for the week ended March 19. Moreover, the agency said, claims dating back to 2011 were generally trending lower than previously reported, and claims for the week ended March 5 were the lowest since November 1973.

Economists are now even more optimistic about another month of strong job gains in March after non-farm payrolls increased by 242,000 in February, according to Reuters.

 

 

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