New orders at U.S. factories rose a less-than-expected 2.3 percent in December, the steepest gain since July, on strong aircraft sales, a government report showed.
Orders for durable goods, items intended to last three years or longer, jumped 5 percent, also the biggest gain since July, as civilian aircraft orders climbed 11.7 percent, the Commerce Department said.
Durables orders were revised down from the 5.2 percent gain originally reported last week.
When transportation was stripped out, orders rose a more modest 0.7 percent.
Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting a 2.5 percent gain in factory orders and a 5 percent rise in durable goods orders.
Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, considered a gauge of business spending, climbed 4.5 percent, the largest increase since March. That was greater than the 4.4 percent rise previously reported.
The latest economic data follow's Friday report that non-farm payrolls fell a surprising 17,000 in January, the first time in nearly 4-1/2 years that U.S. payrolls shrank as continuing losses in construction and manufacturing reflected the economy's waning momentum.
The Labor Department report Friday came in much weaker than anticipated by analysts surveyed by Reuters, who had forecast 80,000 jobs would be added last month.
The department revised December's new-job total up to 82,000 from 18,000 but cut its estimates for hiring in both October and November, highlighting how hiring was already in decline as 2007 ended.
January marked the first job losses since August 2003 and some analysts said it painted a picture of declining economy.