Economic Data Look Sound

Orders for durable goods jump while inflation remains tame.
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A big dose of economic news did little to stir the stock market Thursday, as an unexpectedly strong reading on durable goods orders offset slightly soft consumer spending.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders rose 1.6% in November after a revised decline of 0.9% in October. Excluding transportation equipment, durable goods fell 0.8% last month. Economists had been expecting a gain of 0.7% in the headline number and a gain of 0.8% in the ex-transportation number in November.

The November increase was the best since a 1.9% increase in July. Besides strong transportation orders, the reading reflected an 8.1% jump in nondefense capital goods, suggesting corporate investment is picking up.

Meanwhile, the department said personal income rose 0.3% in November, above the 0.2% economist consensus, while consumer spending rose by 0.2%, below the 0.3% consensus.

The tepid rise in spending followed a 0.8% gain in October, suggesting that consumers were less than enthusiastic in the first few weeks of the holiday shopping season.

The spending and income report contains one of the

Federal Reserve's

favorite inflation gauges, the price index for consumer spending. That index rose 0.1% in November after a 0.4% rise in October, suggesting inflation remains extremely benign.

Elsewhere, the Labor Department said first-time jobless claims were 335,000 last week, roughly matching estimates.