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Business investments help to boost U.S. economic recovery

WASHINGTON -- Companies nationwide ordered more equipment in December for a second month, showing business investment will continue to bolster the U.S. economic recovery into 2011.

Bookings for capital goods such as machinery and communications gear, excluding aircraft, climbed 1.4 percent after a 3.1 percent gain in November, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Thursday. Other figures showed contracts to buy previously owned homes climbed, and more Americans than projected filed claims for jobless benefits.

In a separate economic report from the Labor Department, applications for jobless benefits increased by 51,000 to 454,000 in the week ended Jan. 22. But a report released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors had an index of pending home resales climbing 2 percent, more than forecast, after a 3.1 percent gain the prior month.

On the durable goods report, total orders fell 2.5 percent, depressed by volatility in demand for commercial aircraft, the Commerce Department said.

Excluding transportation, bookings increased 0.5 percent after a 4.5 percent jump in November, which was stronger than previously estimated and the biggest gain in eight months.

The durable goods report showed bookings for commercial aircraft plunged almost 100 percent in December after a 60 percent drop the previous month.

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