U.S. durable goods orders rebounded strongly in October, surging past expectations amid increased demand for aircraft and other transportation machinery.
The Commerce Department said orders for items meant to last three years increased $11 billion, or 4.8%, to $239.4 billion last month, following a downwardly revised 0.4% drop in September. Economists had predicted a 1.7% gain.
Orders were boosted by a near-100% month-on-month increase in orders for commercial aircraft, with Boeing reporting 85 orders for planes. Transportation equipment orders as a whole increased 12% in October.
Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose by 0.4%, after declining 1.4% in September. So-called core capital goods orders have now increased in four of the past five months, suggesting that manufacturing activity is picking up.
According to Reuters, the durable goods data “added to bullish reports on housing starts, home sales, retail sales and the labor market, as well as firming inflation in suggesting that the economy continued to gain speed early in the fourth quarter.”
The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP growth of 3.6% in the fourth quarter, compared to a 2.9% pace in the July-September period.
“The strong economic growth outlook, tightening labor market and rising inflation are likely to encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month,” Reuters said.
Business investment has been a drag on growth, contracting every quarter since the final three months of 2015. But with core capital goods orders steadily increasing in tandem with rising gas and oil well drilling activity, there is “cautious optimism,” Reuters said, that investment will rebound in the fourth quarter.
“Capital investment is also expected to pick up as some of the uncertainty surrounding the Nov. 8 presidential election clears,” Reuters noted. “President-elect Donald Trump has pledged a massive infrastructure spending program, which could spur business investment on capital equipment.”
Orders also rose in October for fabricated metal products, electrical equipment, appliances and components, and computers and electronic products.