MArch factory orders rise 1.3%.Factory orders unexpectedly jumped 1.3% in March, boosted by strong demand for machinery, appliances and primary metals, the U.S. Commerce Department announced Thursday.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected March factory orders to fall 0.1% after a revised 1.3% increase in February.

Excluding the often-volatile transportation component (which includes airplanes and cars), factory orders actually surged 3.1% for the month, after a revised 1.5% gain in February and a 0.5% rise in January.

Orders for durable goods, however, fell 0.6%, after gains of 1.6% in February and 3.8% in January. March shipments increased 2.2%, and inventories rose 0.3%.

Strong Demand For Machinery, Appliances

The March factory orders breakdown by category: Primary metals orders jumped 4.7%; electric equipment and appliances increased 7.1%; machinery surged 8.6%; computers and electronics rose 4.4%; fabricated metal products dipped 0.3%; furniture declined 1.2%; and transportation orders plunged 12.3%.

Economists follow the factory orders statistic because it provides one of the most comprehensive surveys of advance orders for durable goods -- how busy factories are likely to be in the period ahead. Factory orders also are a major value-added component of the U.S. economy.

March's factory orders report is another positive for the U.S. economy. The top-line stat was better than expected, continuing a roughly year-long uptrend; and discounting the transportation component, the increase was even more impressive. Each suggests that the recovery in the factory sector continues to strengthen, boosted by demand for industrial goods at the retail and wholesale levels.

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