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Gauge Of Business Spending Plans Edges Higher

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A gauge of business confidence improved in December, a sign that business worries over tighter fiscal policy may not have held back investment plans as much as feared at the end of 2012.

The Commerce Department said on Monday that non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for investment plans, edged 0.2 percent higher.

Many economists believe businesses held back on capital spending late last year because of uncertainty over government spending cuts and tax increases that had been scheduled to kick in this month. Congress ultimately struck a last-minute deal in early January to avoid or postpone most of the austerity measures.

Monday's data showed companies appeared to still be planning to expand their businesses.

"There's a lot more confidence," said Wayne Kaufman, an analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York.

In a further sign that firms are betting their business will grow, the investment plans proxy for November was revised higher to show a 3 percent gain.

Overall durable goods orders jumped 4.6 percent in December, beating economists expectations of a 1.8 percent gain.