New data on the economy presented a mixed picture on Thursday, providing little guidance for investors ahead of the Federal Reserve board's meeting next week to consider a possible interest rate cut.

Sales of new homes rose slightly in September but remained near their lowest levels ever. Orders for durable goods, major consumer products like airplanes, airplanes and machinery, declined, but a crucial measure of business spending rose.

New home sales reached an annual rate of 770,000 in September, one of the lowest rates on record, and sales figures from previous months were revised downward, the Commerce Department said. Inventories continue to move higher, with homebuilders now saddled with 8.3 months' worth of unsold supply. Prices rose, however, with the median cost at $238,000, up from $232,100 in August.

"This was on the whole another quite weak report, particularly given the aggressive price-cutting that home builders have been implementing in order to try to reduce inventory," said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR, in a research report.

Meanwhile, the dollar fell a third straight day against the euro on the reports. Investors pushed the U.S. currency to within 0.1 cent of its record low as the statistics fueled bets the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates by at least a quarter-percentage point at a policy meeting next week.

"As long as the markets fully expect the Fed to further lower interest rates, the dollar will weaken," said Joseph Francomano, a vice president of foreign exchange at Erste Bank in New York. "The weaker dollar is the easy play, the path of least resistance."