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The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods jumped 9.9 percent last month.

Although the report showed the biggest gain in nearly three years, most of the September increase was driven by a tremendous spike in aircraft orders, which are very volatile and plummeted in the previous month.

When taking out transportation, orders rose just 2 percent. Demand for core capital goods, such as machinery and equipment, were unchanged in September.

REAL ESTATE

Sales contracts to buy homes rise at a slow pace

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes has risen slightly, suggesting that sales may level off in the coming months after posting solid gains in the past year.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements rose in September to a reading of 99.5.

That was up from August’s reading of 99.2 but below a two-year high of 101.9 reached in July.

Contracts are up 14.5 percent from a year ago.

An index reading above 100 is considered healthy.

The index bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010 after a homebuyer’s tax credit expired.

OIL

BP caps dome thought to be source of oil sheen

NEW ORLEANS — BP PLC said Thursday that it has capped and plugged an abandoned piece of equipment that is thought to be the source of a sheen spotted near the site of its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The London-based oil giant said it placed a 750-pound cap over an 86-ton steel container that the company had deployed in a failed effort to contain the spill.

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