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BIG-TICKET ORDERS UP 4.9% AFTER 2 STRAIGHT DECLINES

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Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket durable goods shot up 4.9 percent in August, rebounding from two straight declines to post the biggest increase in a year.

The Commerce Department report Wednesday reinforced recent evidence of improving economic growth that prompted the Federal Reserve on Tuesday to leave interest rates unchanged.The surge in orders, about double what analysts predicted, was led by rising demand for autos but was broad-based.

The Commerce Department said orders for durable goods totaled a seasonally adjusted $163.9 billion, up from $156.2 billion in July. New orders are 8.1 percent higher than the same period a year ago.

Orders fell 1.8 percent in July and slipped 0.3 percent in June. The August increase was only the third this year but was the largest since August 1994, when orders soared 6.5 percent.

Federal Reserve policymakers passed up an opportunity Tuesday to cut interest rates, and many analysts said they could remain stable for the balance of the year if the economy continues to strengthen.