WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods posted a solid gain for the second straight month in March. A key category that signals business investment plans increased at the fastest pace in four months.
Orders for durable goods increased 2.6 percent in March following a 2.1 percent rise in February, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Those back-to-back gains followed two big declines in December and January which had raised concerns about possible weakness in manufacturing.
Demand for core capital goods, considered a good guide for business investment plans, rose 2.2 percent in March after a 1.1 percent drop in February. It was the best showing since a 3 percent rise in November.
Analysts were encouraged with the widespread strength shown in the March orders increase, saying it was an indication that manufacturing was recovering after a cold winter disrupted business activity.
"The gains were spread across most sectors, from primary metals to computers," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
He and other analysts said the March report was an encouraging sign that increased factory production will lift overall economic growth in coming months.
The strength in March was widespread, led by a 4 percent increase in demand for transportation goods. Orders for commercial aircraft advanced 8.6 percent while demand for motor vehicles and parts rose a more modest 0.4 percent.
Excluding transportation, orders rose a solid 2 percent, the best showing in this category in more than a year.
Orders for primary metals such as steel rose 2 percent while demand for heavy machinery, computers and communications equipment all showed increases.
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