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Growth in durable goods orders cooled more than expected in March as demand for computers, machinery and fabricated metal products slid. Meanwhile, a key gauge of business investment rose less than forecast.

Orders for durable goods, or items intended to last at least three years like cars and certain home appliances, rose 0.7 per cent to $238.7bn in March from the previous month — the smallest increase this year — the commerce department said on Thursday. That compared to the previous month when they rose 2.3 per cent and economists’ forecast of a 1.3 per cent rise.

However, non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircrafts, considered a proxy for business investment in big-ticket items, ticked up 0.2 per cent following a more modest 0.1 per cent gain the previous month. Still, that was weaker than expectations for a 0.5 per cent rise.

And shipments of so-called core capital goods rose 0.4 percent following a 1.1 per cent gain the previous month

The US industrial sector had been pressured for much of 2015 and 2016 amid a protracted slump in oil prices and as strength in the dollar hurt demand for US exports. But sentiment appears to have improved since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November with pledges of pro-business and pro-growth policies and promises to revive the American manufacturing sector.

A separate report showed that an advanced reading of US trade deficit swelled to $64.8bn in March, from a downwardly revised $63.9bn the previous month. The deficit was however narrower than the $65.2bn that economists surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated.

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