New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods rose 1 percent in September, Commerce Department data showed on Wednesday, suggesting that the economy's wobbling recovery from recession may be steadying.
The increase met expectations of analysts polled by Reuters and was the second increase in the last three months. It followed an unrevised 2.6 percent decline in August.
Compared with a year ago, orders were down 24.1 percent.
In a recovering economy, you'll get three steps forward and then two steps back. That's what you're seeing here, said David Katz, chief investment officer at Matrix Asset Advisors in New York. This data point is positive.
U.S. S&P stock index futures extended declines after the durable goods data, while U.S. government debt prices were little changed. The dollar rose against the euro.
Durable goods orders are a leading indicator of manufacturing, which in turn provides a good measure of overall business health.
Nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending, beat expectations and rose 2 percent in September after falling 0.8 percent the month before. Analysts had anticipated they would increase 0.9 percent.
Shipments of durable goods rose 0.8 percent in September and have been up for three of the last four months, while inventories fell for the ninth month in a row, by 1 percent.
There are concerns that the continued paring of inventories will be a drag on economic growth. The Commerce Department will report third-quarter gross domestic product on Thursday, and analysts are expecting a 3.3 percent rise, based on rebounds in consumer spending and the housing market.
A separate report showed demand for U.S. home loans last week slid for a third straight week as potential buyers moved to the sidelines ahead of the expiration of an $8,000 tax credit for first-time purchasers.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its mortgage applications index fell 12.3 percent to 562.3 in the week ended October 23, with purchase applications the weakest since mid-May and refinancing requests at a two-month low.
Eligible borrowers who applied last week would unlikely be able to close their loan by the scheduled November 30 expiration of the tax credit, industry experts said.
U.S. lawmakers are considering extending the popular credit, which -- along with other government stimulus -- helped lift the housing market from its deepest downturn since the Great Depression.
(Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani, and Lynn Adler and Ryan Vlastelica in New York)