U.S. factory, confidence data boost growth prospects

WASHINGTON Wed May 28, 2014 6:54am EDT

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WASHINGTON May 27 (Reuters) - Orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods unexpectedly rose in April and consumer confidence perked up in May, supporting views of a rebound in economic growth.

Other data on Tuesday showed home prices moving higher in March and services industries, which dominate the economy, growing at a fast clip in May.

"It appears that the economy continues to bounce back from the harsh winter," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

Orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, climbed 0.8 percent last month after an upwardly revised 3.6 percent gain in March, the Commerce Department said.

Demand for defense capital goods surged and orders for fabricated metal products, transportation gear and electrical equipment, appliances and components all rose.

While non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, fell 1.2 percent, the March reading on these so-called core capital goods was revised sharply higher to show a 4.7 percent gain - the largest since November.

"The large upward revision hints at a stronger handoff into the second quarter," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York. "The data is indicative of a pickup in capital investment activity during the spring."

Separately, the Conference Board said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 83 in May from 81.7 in April as households' labor market views improved. Rising household optimism should boost consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.


Another report showed house prices continued to appreciate in March. The pace, however, is moderating. That could help the market, where rising prices and mortgage rates have undercut sales. The Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller gauge of prices in 20 metropolitan areas rose 12.4 percent in March from a year ago.

The reports helped to lift U.S. stocks and push the Standard & Poor's 500 index to a record high. Prices for U.S. Treasury debt fell. The dollar was flat against a basket of currencies.

Core capital goods shipments, which are used to calculate equipment spending in the government's GDP measurement, fell 0.4 percent last month after rising 2.1 percent in March.

At the same time, durable goods inventories rose only 0.1 percent, suggesting little inventory growth in the second quarter. Morgan Stanley lowered its second-quarter growth estimate to an annual pace of 3.7 percent from 3.9 percent.

Orders for defense capital goods jumped 39.3 percent, the largest rise since December 2012, and unfilled orders rose solidly, a sign factory activity will continue to push ahead.

Separately, financial data firm Markit said its "flash" services Purchasing Managers Index rose to 58.4 in May from 55.0 in April. A reading above 50 signals expansion in services sector activity.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Sam Forgione in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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