U.S. factory orders post biggest gain in eight months

WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - New orders for U.S.-made goods rebounded in June, recording their biggest increase in eight months, but manufacturing is expected to continue to grow at a moderate pace as the boost from the energy sector fades.

Factory goods orders jumped 3.0 percent, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was the largest gain since October 2016 and followed two straight monthly declines. May's data was revised to show orders falling 0.3 percent instead of the previously reported 0.8 percent drop.

Economists had forecast that factory orders would surge 2.9 percent in June. Manufacturing, which makes up about 12 percent of the U.S. economy, has been buoyed by a surge in oil and gas drilling.

But the energy stimulus is easing as ample supplies restrain crude oil prices. At the same time, motor vehicle production is declining as the industry struggles with falling sales, which have created an inventory glut.

Motor vehicle production has decreased for three straight quarters. General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co have both announced they will cut production during the second half of this year. U.S. auto sales fell 6.1 percent in July from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted rate of 16.73 million units.

Thursday's report from the Commerce Department also showed orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft - seen as a measure of business spending plans - were unchanged in June instead of slipping 0.1 percent as reported last month. Orders for these so-called core capital goods rose 0.8 percent in May.

Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, edged up 0.1 percent instead of the previously reported 0.2 percent gain.

In June, orders for machinery increased 0.4 percent after advancing 2.6 percent in May. Mining, oil field and gas field machinery orders increased 3.8 percent after accelerating 10.3 percent in May.

Orders for transportation equipment jumped 19.0 percent, the biggest rise since July 2014, reflecting a 131.1 percent surge in civilian aircraft orders. Motor vehicle orders nudged up 0.1 percent after rising 0.3 percent in May.

Unfilled orders at factories increased 1.3 percent in June, the largest gain since July 2014. Manufacturing inventories rose 0.2 percent while shipments fell 0.2 percent. The inventories-to-shipments ratio rose to 1.38 from 1.37 in May. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)