Updated from 9:21 a.m. EDT

After plunging at a record pace in July, orders for big-ticket manufactured goods rebounded in August, driven by a sharp rise in orders for aircraft and parts.

Durable goods orders

-- a measure of demand for items meant to last three years -- rose 2.9% in August, after falling a revised 13.1% in July, which was the largest monthly decline since the government began keeping such statistics in 1958, the

Commerce Department

said Wednesday.

Initially, the government estimated that July orders fell 12.4%.

In August orders increased $6.1 billion to $216.1 billion, roughly in line with economists' expectations. According to a poll by


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, the consensus among economists was for durable goods orders to rise 2.7%.

Year to date, new orders are up 9%.

The category of orders for transportation equipment, mainly aircraft and parts, was the largest gainer, rising $3 billion, or 6.5%, to $49.3 billion. Electronics and other electrical equipment increased $400 million, or 1%, to $41.2 billion, mostly due to communications equipment. New orders for defense goods rose $1.1 billion, or 18.2%, to $7.2 billion.

The figures provide the markets with nothing startling and support the widespread view that the economy has cooled sufficiently for the

Federal Reserve

to hold off raising interest rates. The Fed has raised rates six times over the last 15 months to head off the threat of inflation. It left rates steady at its August meeting, and it is considered a foregone conclusion that rates will remain unchanged at its Oct. 3 meeting.

"The net of the last couple of months' durable goods reports have been slowing, although the data are so volatile the trend is not clear," said James O'Sullivan, U.S. economist at

J.P. Morgan

. "All in all, this report is unlikely to be decisive in changing expectations."