New orders for U.S.-made durable goods rose 2.6 percent in February, twice market expectations, as civilian aircraft orders bounced back from a January decline, a government report showed Friday.

But when the 13.4 percent surge in transportation orders was excluded, orders for durable goods fell 1.3 percent, well below Wall Street forecasts for a 0.9 percent rise. The drop broke a three-month string of increases in orders for durable goods outside of transportation.

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Orders for nondefense aircraft climbed 52.5 percent after a 70.1 percent drop in January, powering the transportation sector higher.

The Commerce Department revised up January orders for durable goods -- expensive items meant to last at least three years -- though the drop remained steep. Durable goods orders fell 8.9 in January rather than the 9.9 percent previously reported, the department said.

Durables orders excluding defense items rose just 0.3 percent, short of the 0.8 percent increase expected by economists. Orders for defense capital goods surged 104.1 percent, the largest increase in four years.

Weakness was widespread outside of civilian aircraft and defense. Primary metals orders fell 2.5 percent, fabricated metals dropped 1.9 percent, machinery orders plunged 6.3 percent and electrical equipment and appliance orders fell 3.2 percent. Orders for motor vehicles fell 3.3 percent.

Orders for computers and electronic products were a bright spot, rising 4.2 percent. Computer orders alone rose 4.8 percent.

Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for business spending, fell 2.3 percent after a scant 0.3 percent rise in January. Wall Street analysts had expected a 1.0 percent increase.

Durable goods inventories fell 0.5 percent in February, the largest one-month decline since November 2003.

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