New orders at U.S. factories rose a smaller-than-expected 0.2 percent in February, as robust civilian aircraft and defense capital goods orders outweighed declining demand for primary and fabricated metals, machinery and electrical equipment, a government report showed on Friday.

Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting factory orders to rise 1.4 percent.

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February's rise in factory orders followed a revised 3.9 percent drop in January. But if transportation orders in February were stripped out, orders fell 2 percent, the biggest decline since April 2003.

Orders for durable goods, expensive items meant to last three years, rose 2.7 percent, reversing an 8.9 percent tumble in the prior month.

Transportation orders rose 13.6 percent in February, mostly because of a 52.4 percent rise in nondefense aircraft orders. Orders for defense capital goods surged 97.4 percent.

Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a proxy for business spending, fell 1.7 percent after a revised unchanged reading in January.

Orders for a range of manufacturing industry goods fell. Machinery orders were down 6.7 percent, while orders for electrical equipment were down 4.1 percent and orders for primary metals fell 2.4 percent.

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

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