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Durable goods orders flying low

With capital spending by big American companies still sluggish, orders for durable goods — products expected to last for more than three years, ranging from toasters to industrial turbines — rose a skimpy 0.2 percent during December, the Commerce Department reported.

But pulling out defense spending, and focusing on the private sector, orders actually fell by 0.2 percent, the agency said.

The worse-than-expected performance followed a steep revised drop of 1.3 percent in November.

Non-defense capital goods orders, excluding aircraft — shorthand for capital spending by big American companies — slipped by 0.1 percent, but it was still a stronger performance than the 3.1 percent slide in November. Helping to stabilize the sector after the prior month's decline, demand for computer equipment rose by 3.2 percent, while orders for computers and related products shot up by 12.1 percent. But acting as a drag on the overall totals, orders for communications equipment plunged by 21.2 percent.

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