Personal finances, Finance & Earnings - Your money

U.S. factory orders increase for second straight month

WASHINGTON, - New orders for U.S.-made goods increased for a second straight month in January, suggesting the manufacturing sector recovery was gaining momentum as rising prices for commodities spur demand for machinery. Factory goods orders rose 1.2 percent, the Commerce Department said on Monday after an unrevised 1.3 percent jump in December. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders advancing 1.0 percent in January. Factory orders were up 5.5 percent from a year ago. Total shipments of manufactured goods increased 0.2 percent after surging 2.5 percent in December. Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy, is regaining its footing after being buffeted by lower oil prices, a strong dollar and an inventory overhang. The nascent recovery was underscored by a survey last week showing a gauge of national factory activity jumped to a 2-1/2-year high in February.

The Commerce Department also said orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft - seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans - slipped 0.1 percent in January instead of the 0.4 percent drop reported last month. Shipments of these so-called core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, fell 0.4 percent in January. They were previously reported to have declined 0.6 percent.

The weakness in shipments points to continued sluggish growth in business spending on equipment, which increased at a 1.9 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter. That was the first rise in over a year. In January, orders for transportation equipment accelerated 6.2 percent, reflecting a 62.2 percent surge in defense aircraft orders. There was also a 69.8 percent jump in orders for civilian aircraft. Outside transportation, orders for machinery increased 0.9 percent.

Orders for computers and electronic products fell 1.9 percent and bookings for electrical equipment, appliances and components declined 2.6 percent. Orders for fabricated metal product rose 2.3 percent.

Your money odd couples why partners do not talk about salaries

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK, June 24 When Kristi Sullivan quizzed her husband about how much money she made last year, the Denver financial planner was shocked to discover he was off by a wide margin. Although they have been married for 18 years, with two kids, her hubby missed the mark by $8,000."He should have known, because I told him once," laughs 43-year-old Kristi. "But I'm not sure that men always listen."And that's in a power marriage comprised of a certified financial planner and a management consultant. Imagine how clueless the rest of us are about our partners' finances. Boston-based money managers Fidelity Investments asked that very question in its just-released 2015 Couples Retirement Study. It found that an amazing 43 percent of people could not say what their partner earns. Most couples claim to communicate about money exceptionally well, notes John Sweeney, Fidelity's executive vice president of retirement & investing strategies."Despite that, 10 percent of people guessed (the salary of their significant other) wrong by $25,000 or more," Sweeney says. Before we scoff at clueless partners, though, think about the nature of the modern economy. Within a few years, an estimated 40 percent of the workforce will be comprised of contractors, freelancers or temp workers, according to a study by software company Intuit Inc.

And as any freelancer knows, income can be wildly different from one month to the next - just as it is for Kristi Sullivan, a fee-only planner who does not know her annual earnings "until December 31.""Our grandparents worked at a company for 40 years and brought home steady paychecks," says Sweeney. Today's economy is project-based, "which makes predicting income extremely hard," he notes. Partners may be guessing off-the-mark for legitimate reasons, but couples are not where they need to be, either in understanding their finances, or each other. The reason often comes down to deep-seated emotions, experts say."A lot of it is about fear," says Elle Martinez, the Raleigh, N. C.-based founder of and host of the Couple Money podcast on iTunes. "Maybe you are embarrassed about your salary, or maybe you have debts."How can people get more comfortable with sharing numbers with their significant others?

JOINING FORCES Step one is basic transparency. Have at least one joint account to handle everyday expenses and monthly bills, for example. And going over the joint tax return before April 15 will provide the headline numbers of what each partner is bringing in. To get a real money conversation started, one clever strategy is very Zen. If you want to know about wages, don't come right out and ask. Instead, go at the issue indirectly."I know it sounds counterintuitive, but talk about your goals instead," says Martinez. "Something simple, like wanting to go on vacation next year."

Then you can get into where you are right now financially, and how you can achieve that goal together, Martinez says."It's an easy way to get a discussion started, without directly asking how much money they make," she adds. Interpersonal habits can be hard to break, though, especially when you've been in a relationship for many years. In those cases, consider drafting a third party to broach issues you're not comfortable bringing up on your own. Your financial planner or accountant, for instance, can give both of you financial updates that can fill in any blanks. After all, both partners deserve to know where things stand financially, even if one of you tends to handle the bills or the investments. If you don't have such a support team in place, here's another simple option: Take Fidelity's nine-question Couples Quiz