U.S. Factory Orders Swell Greater-Than-Expected 3.1%

New orders at U.S. factories rose a greater-than-expected 3.1% in March on a rise in civilian aircraft orders, but were also greater for the first time since December when transportation orders were excluded, a Commerce Department report showed on Wednesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting factory orders to rise 2.1%. February orders were revised to show a 1.4% gain.

Aside from transportation orders, factory orders rose 1.9% after being unchanged in February. February orders excluding transportation were first reported as a 0.4% decline.

Orders for durable goods, items meant to least three years or longer, also rose a bigger-than-expected 3.7% in March. Analysts were expecting durables orders to gain 3.3%.

In a sign sluggishness in business investment may have been short-lived, nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, considered a proxy for business spending, rose 4.8%, the first gain in three months and the largest rise since September 2004.

Transportation orders jumped 9.5% on a 38.1% increase in civilian aircraft and parts. Orders for metals, machinery, electronic products and electrical equipment all rose.

Stripping out defense goods, orders rose 3.5% in March.