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Durable goods orders fall 4.4%

Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell by the largest amount in 15 months with a key category that tracks business investment showing weakness for the third consecutive month.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for durable goods dropped 4.4 percent last month. The October drop was led by a huge decline in the volatile areas of commercial and military aircraft.

The slowdown has raised the specter that a widening trade war between the United States and China is causing U.S. companies to become cautious about committing resources to expand and modernize their operations.

The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a strong 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter but this gain came despite the fact that business investment spending slowed sharply in the third quarter, to an annual rate of just 0.8 percent, the weakest showing in nearly two years, after an 8.7 percent surge in the second quarter.

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