WASHINGTON – Orders for durable goods poured into American factories in March, setting up manufacturing as one of the central drivers of a rebound in economic growth during the second quarter.
Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years increased 2.6 percent, the biggest gain since November, after rising 2.1 percent in the prior month, a Commerce Department report showed Thursday in Washington. Orders excluding transportation equipment, which is often volatile, rose by the most in more than a year.
The biggest increase in computers and electronics orders since November 2010 highlighted a broad-based pickup in demand that will help the economy rebound after a weather-plagued first quarter. More business investment and improvement in some global markets will benefit manufacturers such as United Technologies Corp. and Honeywell International Inc.
“The rise in durable goods is indicative of a resurgence as the negative weather effects fade,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, a strategist at TD Securities USA LLC in New York, who projected a 2.5 percent gain in orders. “Demand is definitely on the rise. It’s a very strong handoff into the second quarter.”
The median forecast of 77 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 2 percent advance. Estimates ranged from a 0.2 percent decline to a 3.6 percent gain after a previously reported 2.2 percent increase in February.
Another report Thursday from the Labor Department showed initial jobless claims jumped 24,000 last week to 329,000.
Stock-index futures extended gains after the reports, as better-than-estimated earnings from Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. boosted optimism equity gains will continue. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in June rose 0.4 percent to 1,881 at 8:56 a.m. in New York.
Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for future business investment in items like computers, engines and communications gear, increased 2.2 percent. It was the biggest gain in four months and followed a revised 1.1 percent drop that was smaller than previously estimated.