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Economic Report: Durable-goods orders and business investment rise more slowly. Is the U.S. economy softening ?

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The numbers: Orders at U.S. factories for long-lasting goods such as machinery and electronics rose a solid 0.4% in April, signaling the economy was still growing at a steady pace in the early spring.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.7% increase. Durable goods are products meant to last at least three years.

Another measure of factory conditions seen as a proxy for business investment also rose by 0.3%, the government said. These so-called core orders strip out the up-and-down transportation sector as well as government spending on military equipment.

They are viewed by investors as a signal of future business prospects.

Big picture: Factories are working at full tilt and business investment is still robust, but high inflation and rising interest rates are starting to cause erosion. Ongoing labor and supply shortages are also a hindrance.

Other reports on manufacturing, particularly more recent ones, point to some erosion in demand. With the Federal Reserve planning to raise interest rates sharply this year, the U.S. economy is bound to slow.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.15%

and S&P 500
SPX,
-0.81%

were set to open lower in Wednesday trades.

The Fed must boost rates by a full percentage point at every meeting to bring down inflation and avoid a job-killing recession

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