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Updated from 11:17 a.m. EST

Durable goods orders and new-home sales were both less than expected in December, according to government reports released Wednesday.

Orders were flat after a sharp decline in the previous month, while new-home sales fell 5.1% to an annualized rate of 1.06 million units.

Economists had expected durable goods orders to rise 2%. The flat performance in December included a 0.1% increase in defense-oriented goods. Overall, orders were $181.4 billion. The government reduced November's decline to 2.3%, from the original 2.5% drop.

Though economists had expected 1.10 million units in December, November's rate was revised sharply higher to 1.11 million.

New-ome sales still hit a record in 2003, up 11.5% to 1.08 million units from a year ago. Existing-home sales, which surged almost 7% in December, also hit a record in 2003, as rock-bottom interest rates continue to attract new buyers.

December's disappointment hurt shares in homebuilders. Recently,

Toll Brothers

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