THE ECONOMY

THE ECONOMY

DURABLES SEEN LIFTING

MARCH FACTORY ORDERSEconomists expect factory orders to ride a strong rise in durable goods orders and post a 3.6 percent average increase in March, according to a Knight-Ridder Financial News survey.

Estimates from 10 economists ranged from increases of 3.2 percent to 3.9 percent in March. The U.S. Department of Commerce will release the March factory orders report today.

In February, factory orders rose a modest 1.8 percent after a 5.5 percent drop in January. Each of the economists surveyed based the estimate on the sizable 6.7 percent jump in durable goods orders reported April 24.

Durable goods account for about half of the factory orders, they noted.

PURCHASERS' INDEX RISE

SIGNALS ECONOMY SWELL

NEW YORK - The national purchasing managers' survey for April yielded a reading of 50.2 percent, up from March's 48.8 percent, indicating expansion in the manufacturing sector, the National Association Purchasing Management, which conducts the survey, reported Tuesday.

A reading below 50 percent indicates that the economy is generally contracting while areading above 50 percent indicates that the economy is generally expanding.

The April report marked the first reading above 50 percent after 11 consecutive readings below 50 percent.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

DECLINED IN APRIL

NEW YORK - Consumer confidence in the economy fell in April because of a deteriorating job outlook, erasing an upturn the previous month, the Conference Board said.

The business-sponsored research group said Monday that its consumer confidence index fell in April as consumers were less positive about current economic conditions and the outlook for the immediate future. The index is based on a monthly survey of 5,000 U.S. households.

"Although the nation's unemployment rate has remained unchanged for some months - at slightly more than 5 percent - the number of new jobs in March dropped abruptly and sharply," said Fabian Linden, executive director of the board's consumer research center. That decline "probably contributed to much of the uneasiness" found by the survey, he added.