Geez, Louise, people! What does it take to make you happy? For the second day running, investors are running scared after hearing about yesterday's monthly durable goods report (produced by the Census Bureau, for reasons that make sense only in Washington, D.C.

But what did the news actually say? Durable goods orders were up for the month, rising 3.3% in comparison to August's numbers. That's good news, right?


Well, it's good news if you're Boeing (NYSE: BA) or General Dynamics (NYSE: GD). All year long, Boeing's been booking 737 airliner orders hand over fist. Yesterday, General Dynamics grabbed its captain's cap and joined in the fun as well, reporting superb sales growth in its Gulfstream business jet division. The news in airplanes (which make up a goodly chunk of the "transportation" column shown above) has even gone international, what with Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B) doing its part to boost demand for business jets from Brazilian planemaker Embraer (NYSE: ERJ).

And yet ... forgive the glass-half-Fool perspective here, folks, but did you notice the third column up above? The one that shows what would have happened to the economy if we didn't have a transportation sector to lean upon for support? Because if you take away the beaucoup bucks reaped by transportation companies, we'd be staring at a net loss in durable goods orders for the month.

What's next?
Meanwhile, actual shipments of manufactured durable goods declined for the second consecutive month, down 0.4% in September. (Computers and electronics were especially hard-hit, which probably isn't great news for tech giants like Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) or Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ).) Combine that with the weakness in new orders for everything-but-planes, and I've got to say, folks -- the U.S. economy may be looking great from cruising altitude, a mile or so up. Down here at ground level, however, things are still looking rough.

Take the Foolish Rorschach test. Do you see something different in today's chart? Tell us about it below.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. Rich is not a licensed economist, but he plays one on the Web. Check out his latest stock recommendations on Motley Fool CAPS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Berkshire Hathaway, General Dynamics, and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Berkshire Hathaway and EMBRAER-Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica A. are Motley Fool Stock Advisor choices. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Intel.

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