Orders for

durable goods rose much more than expected in March, but they were boosted by transportation.

Orders of goods intended to last more than three years rose 3% in March. Economists were expecting orders of big-ticket items to rise only 0.6%. Excluding transportation, however, orders fell much more than expected, dropping 1.8%. Economists expected a 0.5% fall -- and that compares with a rise of 0.5% in February.

In general, the rate of business spending is lousy. Nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft are down 4.2% on a year-over-year basis. Nondefense orders are a widely watched measure of demand from businesses.

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Economists have said durable goods orders could pick up in response to decent consumer demand. But its's a big unknown whether or not consumers will continue to spend money, especially in light of the fact that consumer confidence has been taking some hits.