Arriving before the opening bell, the

durable goods orders for January showed even more weakness than expected.

Durable goods orders dropped 6% last month, twice as much as the 3% drop economists had been expecting. Excluding transportation orders, orders dipped 0.3%. Nondefense capital goods orders, excluding aircraft, showed a one-month turnaround, rising 6.5% in January after three straight drops.

Orders of durable goods, which refer to things you'd buy that you don't expect to replace in three years, such as washing machines, electrical equipment and automobiles, were expected to fall sharply in January. This timely, albeit volatile, indicator should have a deep impact on today's market. Stock futures, however, did not move much after the data was released. In a separate story,

TheStreet.com's

Dave Gaffen

explored the implications of the data.

Ongoing softness in the key non-defense capital goods (excluding aircraft) figure, is a good signal of the underlying trend for big-ticket items. It ferrets out aircraft orders, which can throw the report completely out of whack by virtue of one or two orders for aircraft, and pulls out the military spending, which is also volatile and doesn't necessarily reflect spending by the rest of the economy.

Before today's report, this figure had dropped three months in a row on a seasonally adjusted basis, and on a year-over-year basis is only up 1.5%, a sharp slowing when compared to the overall trend of about 10% growth in the last several years. Ongoing weakness in this area of the economy will provide the

Federal Reserve with more ammunition for a potential intermeeting rate cut, which not a few pundits are clamoring should happen sooner, rather than later.

But as

TheStreet.com's

Justin Lahart writes, investors

shouldn't hold their breath for a rate cut before the next Fed meeting on March 20.

Also slated for release today are three consumer spending indicators including the

Consumer Confidence Index, the

BTM-UBSW Weekly Chain Store Sales Index, and the

Redbook Retail Average. This trio should provide a clear picture of prevailing consumer moods.

Economic Data

Durable goods orders for January. Source: Census Bureau. Actual: -6.0%. Forecast: -3.0%. Previous: +2.1%. Ex-transportation: Actual: -0.3%. Forecast: n.a. Previous: -1.4%.

9 a.m.: BTM-UBSW Weekly Chain Store Sales Index for the week ended Feb. 24. Source: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg. Forecast: n.a. Previous: +0.9%.

10 a.m.: New home sales for January. Source: Census Bureau. Forecast: 930,000. Previous: 975,000.

10 a.m.: Consumer Confidence Index for February. Source: Conference Board . Forecast: 109.6. Previous: 114.4.

10:30 a.m.: Redbook Retail Average for the week ended Feb. 24 vs. January. Source: LJR Redbook. Forecast: n.a.. Previous: -0.5%.

Forecasts are from

Reuters

. Times are Eastern. For a longer-term economic calendar and more, see

TheStreet.com's

Economic Databank.