The economic data showed the U.S. economy remains wobbly. U.S. durable goods orders tumbled 8.5% in September while economists had been expecting only a 1.0% decline, says Standard & Poor's economic research unit MMS. The data reflected severe supply disruptions following the September 11 terrorist attacks, particularly in the aircraft industry, vehicles and high-tech equipment.
News from the labor front was discouraging as well. The number of Americans filing for the first time for unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 to the 504,000 in the week ended October 20. Particularly alarming was news that continuing claims rose an additional 56,000 to 3.65 million, which is the highest level in about 18 1/2 years and suggests that claimants are having a difficult time finding new employment.
And U.S. existing home sales plunged 11.7% to a 4.89 million annual rate in September from a 5.54 million pace in August. This is the first time this year that the pace has fallen below the 5.0 million rate and reflects the immediate negative impact of the terrorist attacks, MMS said.