New orders for durable goods edged up 0.1% to $224.9 billion for August, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens as PDF) released today. Durable goods are items meant to last at least three years, and their movements are watched by analysts as an indicator of longer-term economic confidence (or lack thereof).

After dropping off a revised 8.1% in July after a June that saw an upswing from airplane orders, August's increase proved better than expected. Overall, analysts had predicted a 0.5% contraction. In the last 12 months, new orders for durable goods have increased 13.7%.

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Source: Census.gov 

Excluding volatile transportation orders (which include aircraft), August's numbers look less exciting. New orders dipped 0.1%, missing analyst expectations for 1% growth. 

The decline in demand for defense aircraft and other military goods that held back August orders could be related to steep government spending cuts that took effect in March. Excluding defense spending, orders rose 0.5%. Auto factories reported a 2.4% increase in orders, the biggest in six months.

And demand for so-called core capital goods rose 1.5%, after falling 3.3% the previous month. Core capital goods are a good measure of businesses' confidence in the economy and include items that point to expansion, such as machinery and computers.

While new orders made small moves, shipments rebounded 0.9% after two months of decreases. At $231.5 billion, shipments are at their highest level since data were first recorded in 1992. Unfilled orders and inventories also broke their all-time records, increasing $400 million to $1,032.4 billion  and $300 million to $379.1 billion, respectively.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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