Friday Economic Snapshot: Ice out

As the northern lakes lose their ice, major indicators generally suggest the American economy continues to gradually gain momentum. New orders for manufactured goods increased 2.6 percent, unemployment claims and new home sales remained within recent trends, and the stock market has mounted a late-week surge in response to positive earnings in multiple sectors, including big-ticket tech stocks.

Let’s take a look.

Durable Goods Orders

In its latest report on durable goods manufacturers’ shipments, inventories and orders for March of 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau said new orders increased $6 billion, or 2.6 percent, to $234.8 billion last month. The month’s increase comes on the heels of two previous months of growth.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods increased $2.5 billion — 1.1 percent — while unfilled orders increased 0.6 percent. Inventories of manufactured durable goods increased $1.9 billion, or 0.5 percent, while nondefense orders for capital goods shot up 7.1 percent to $80.5 billion, a monthly increase of $5.4 billion.

New Home Sales

Also from the Census Bureau comes the latest New Home Sales data for March, which puts the seasonally adjusted annual rate at 384,000 — 14.5 percent below the revised February rate of 449,000. This is 13.3 percent below the March 2013 estimate of 443,000, and suggests prolonged weakness in the U.S. housing market.

It’s the largest monthly decline since last July. While it’s likely not the only factor, several economic prognosticators mentioned persistent cold weather as a significant anchor slowing home sales.

Unemployment Claims

Maintaining recent positive trends in the jobs market, weekly unemployment claims came in at 329,000 for the week ending April 19. This is an increase of 24,000 from the previous week, and puts the current 4-week moving average at 316,750. That’s an increase of 4,750 from the previous week, and still positive territory.

While the latest unemployment data came in higher than the consensus forecast, positive earnings data from many key companies suggests that economic activity will continue heating up as the nation’s weather does the same.

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