Will Durable Goods Bring Another Disappointment?

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If there is one economic release that can bring big swings to expectations, it is the monthly durable goods report. This is also one of the most volatile of all economic reports. It may seem surprising to many outsiders who do not pick the number apart, but this can be a great number in bad times or can be a bad number in great times. Adding up spending for computers, capital goods, refrigerators, airplanes and cars just can be very volatile.

Thursday’s economic releases will include April’s durable goods report. While it can be volatile, the reality is that durable goods overall has been a very disappointing economic report of late. March was up only 0.8%, after a drop of 2.8% in February. In fact, the 4.9% gain in January was muted because of a drop of 5.1% in December.

Economists have a wide range of expectations for April’s overall report. Bloomberg is calling for a consensus reading of 0.3% for new orders, and its range from Econoday was shown as −0.6% to +1.3% (very wide range). Reuters is calling for overall to have risen 0.5% in April, and Dow Jones (the Wall Street Journal) is calling for gain to be up 0.7%.

Where things get tricky is the reading that excludes transportation. Reuters is calling for a gain of 0.3%, and a gain of 0.4%, with an Econoday range of 0.1% to 0.8%.

Another consideration here is that capital goods spending has been flat. That may mute expectations for growth ahead. The strength of the dollar may play a small role as well. Ditto for the latest recovery in oil helping to boost project spending from energy firms.

While this reading has a one-month look back, it should be considered that this is a large nominal dollar figure. That means it can impact the outlook for gross domestic product.

Durable goods will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday.