Durable goods are goods that don't wear out quickly or those that have a lifespan of more than three years. These include computer equipment, industrial equipment, trains, planes and automobiles. Economists track purchases of durable goods as one of several "key economic indicators." Nondurable, or consumable, goods include food, clothing, supplies and other items that are used up within a short period after being bought.
Durable goods also include dishwashers, washer-dryers, refrigerators, televisions, medical equipment, furniture, lawn and garden equipment, consumer electronics, sporting goods, mobile phones, photographic equipment and jewelry. Durable goods used in manufacturing and other businesses include generators, machinery, laboratory equipment and medical devices.
The U.S. Census Bureau collects and reports data for the durable goods sector, which includes manufacturing companies that ship more than $500 million annually. Stock market participants and economists follow this and several other sectors to monitor economic conditions and to forecast future production commitments. The bureau tracks the core durable goods sector in a way that specifically excludes transportation equipment (trains, planes and automobiles) because an influx of high dollar value transactions would skew results.
Economists and the bureau also track a related sector called capital goods, which is a category of stocks that are related to the manufacture or distribution of goods. This sector includes companies that manufacture the machinery used to create capital goods, electrical equipment, aerospace and defense, engineering and construction projects.