Factory Orders Up 1.3% in March

New orders for manufactured goods bested estimates by improving 1.3%, or $5 billion, to $391.5 billion, according to a report from the Commerce Department.
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) -- Factory orders swelled by a larger-than-expected margin in March, the government said Tuesday, piling on to evidence showing some robustness in the manufacturing sector.

New orders for manufactured goods improved by 1.3%, or $5 billion, to $391.5 billion, according to a report from the Commerce Department. Consensus figures provided by


had called for orders to edge lower by 0.2% during the month led by a steep drop in commercial plane demand, according to an

Associated Press

report. And while that particular drop did materialize in March -- nondefense aircraft orders declined by a whopping 66.9% -- a pickup in machinery and electronic goods, among other items, helped compensate for the deficit.

After stripping out wildly mercurial transportation stats, orders climbed higher by an even stronger 3.1%.

In February, factory orders rose by 1.3%.

Shipments in March rose by 2.2%, while unfilled orders ticked lower by 0.1%.

News of the factory order vigor comes on the heels of similar news released Monday. The

Institute for Supply Management said its index measuring economic activity in the manufacturing space rose to its highest point since 2004. The industry group said new orders and production improved, while a sub-index measuring employment trends registered its fifth straight month of growth.

The news did little to assuage equity traders, though, who were

selling off broadly and sharply in light of continuing European debt concerns. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was recently plunging 224 points, or 2%, at 10,928.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York