Three important points of economic data released today painted a mixed picture of the American economy's health.

  1. U.S. real gross domestic product increased an estimated 1.3% in the second quarter, according to a release from the Department of Commerce, down from a previous quarterly estimate of a 1.7% increase. That's down markedly from a 2% gain in real GDP in 2012's first quarter. The withering effects of this summer's harsh drought and a slowing of personal consumption expenditures and fixed investments contributed to the GDP's underwhelming performance.
  2. A second report by the Commerce Department highlighted sharply falling new orders for durable goods in August. Orders fell by more than $30 billion, to under $200 billion for the month, a 13.2% decrease that was the largest since January 2009 . It followed three consecutive monthly increases. Orders for transportation equipment fell the hardest, decreasing 35% for the month.
  3. On a positive note, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment in the U.S. fell to 359,000 last week, according to a release from the Department of Labor. Claims fell 26,000 to a nine-week low, pushing the four-week moving average of initial claims down to 374,000 – breaking a six-week streak of that number increasing. The report also outlined the total number of unemployment benefits claims for the week ending Sept. 8, which declined year-over-year by nearly 2 million claims to 5.2 million.