July 26, 2018 / 1:13 PM / 7 months ago

WRAPUP 1-U.S. business spending on equipment strong; trade deficit widens

* Core capital goods orders increase 0.6 percent in June

* Core capital goods shipments rise 1.0 percent

* Weekly jobless claims climb 9,000 to 217,000

* Goods trade deficit increases 5.5 percent in June

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, July 26 (Reuters) - New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods increased more than expected in June and shipments surged, pointing to solid growth in business spending on equipment in the second quarter.

Expectations of robust economic growth in the April-June period were, however, tempered somewhat by other data on Thursday showing a widening in the goods trade deficit last month and no change in retail and wholesale inventories.

The Commerce Department said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 0.6 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.7 percent increase in May.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the so-called core capital goods orders rising 0.4 percent last month after a previously reported 0.3 percent gain in May. Core capital goods orders increased 6.8 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Shipments of core capital goods jumped 1.0 percent last month after an unrevised 0.2 percent gain in May. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government's gross domestic product measurement.

Business spending on equipment has risen since the fourth quarter of 2016. It is expected to have combined with robust consumer spending to boost second-quarter GDP growth.

According to a Reuters survey of economists, GDP growth likely increased at a 4.1 percent annualized rate in the April-June period, which would be double the 2.0 percent pace notched in the first quarter. The government will publish its advance estimate of second-quarter GDP growth on Friday.

But second-quarter GDP growth could miss expectations as the Commerce Department reported in another report on Thursday that the goods trade deficit shot up 5.5 percent in June to $68.3 billion.


Goods exports declined by $2.2 billion to $141.9 billion last month. Imports of goods rose by $1.3 billion to $210.3 billion. The department also said both wholesale and retail inventories were unchanged in June.

The dollar trimmed losses on the data versus a basket of currencies. Prices for U.S Treasuries were little changed.

Business spending on equipment is being supported by the Trump administration's $1.5 trillion income tax cut package, which came into effect in January. But there are worries that trade tensions between the United States and its major trade partners, including China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, could offset the fiscal stimulus.

Last month, orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components rebounded 1.5 percent after slipping 0.5 percent in May. Orders for computers and electronic products rose 0.6 percent while those for machinery gained 0.2 percent.

There was also an increase in demand for fabricated metals. Orders for primary metals fell 0.4 percent.

Overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, increased 1.0 percent in June as demand for transportation equipment rebounded 2.2 percent. That followed a 0.3 percent drop in durable goods orders in May.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts jumped 4.4 percent last month, the biggest increase since March 2015, after plunging 4.5 percent in May.

Orders for civilian aircraft rose only 4.3 percent last month, despite Boeing reporting on it website that it had received 233 aircraft orders, up from only 43 planes in May.

A third report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 217,000 for the week ended July 21, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Claims dropped to 208,000 during the week ended July 14, which was the lowest reading since December 1969. The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment.

Job gains averaged 215,000 positions per month in the first half of this year.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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