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September 27, 2018 2:00 PM, EDT

Durable Goods Orders in August Jump 4.5%

Durable goods manufacturing Chris Carlson/Associate Press

WASHINGTON — Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods rose at a healthy pace last month, though the increase was mostly driven by a surge in aircraft demand.

The Commerce Department said Sept. 27 that orders increased 4.5% in August, the most in six months. Excluding aircraft, cars and other transportation equipment, however, orders increased just 0.1%.

U.S. manufacturing is expanding at a solid pace, with orders up 9.2% year-to-date. Consumers are confident and spending more, and businesses have stepped up investment in machinery and equipment. Still, President Donald Trump’s trade battles with China, Europe, and Canada pose a risk in the coming months.

A category of orders that is a proxy for business investment fell 0.5% in August after two strong months. Such orders are up 7.4% this year.

Orders for metals such as steel and aluminum rose 0.9%, after two months of flat or declining demand. Some of that increase may reflect the higher prices that steel and aluminum makers can now command with the Trump administration’s 25% tariffs tamping down imports.

Computer makers and auto companies reported declining orders.

Other measures of the factory sector also point to solid growth. A survey of purchasing managers found that factory activity expanded in September at its fastest pace in 14 years. Production soared and manufacturers added jobs at a faster pace.

And a measure of factory output tracked by the Federal Reserve rose 0.2% in August, led by a big increase in auto production.

The economy expanded at a 4.2% annual rate in the second quarter, according to a separate report released Sept. 27. That was the fastest pace in four years, lifted by a strong increase in consumer spending and healthy business investment in new buildings and software.