Durable goods orders were flat in August, but core capital goods posted their third straight gain, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday.
Orders for durable goods – items meant to last three years or more – were unchanged in August following a 3.6 percent jump in July. In general, durable-goods orders have been trending flat for the past three and a half years (Chart 1). Weakness has been concentrated in energy and commodity-related equipment.
The good news in the details was the third monthly gain for core capital goods, which are nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft. These data are a proxy for overall business investment. Core capital goods rose 0.6 percent in August following a 0.8 percent rise in July and a 0.5 percent increase in June.
Together, these three months of gains may be reversing a mild down trend that began in mid-2014 (Chart 1 again). More data are necessary to be sure that business investment is on a recovering path, but the latest data are an encouraging sign.