New orders at U.S. factories rose a less-than-expected 2.1 percent in September as strength in durable goods, particularly transportation, more than offset weakness in nondurable items, a government report said on Thursday.

Durable goods orders gained a revised 8.3 percent in September, previously reported up 7.8 percent, the Commerce Department said. Transportation equipment jumped 28.6 percent in September after a 3.6 percent advance in August.

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Wall Street economists polled by Reuters had predicted a 4 percent gain in factory orders. Orders in August fell a revised 0.3 percent, previously reported as unchanged.

Orders for nondurable goods, such as food and apparel, fell 4.6 percent in September after a 0.6 percent decline in August.

Factory orders excluding transportation fell 2.4 percent in September while orders excluding defense-related goods gained 1.2 percent.

Unfilled factory orders, a barometer of future activity, grew 3.9 percent in September, which was the 16th gain out of the last 17 months.

Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a gauge of underlying business capital spending, rose 2 percent after a 1.1 percent gain the prior month.

Shipments at U.S. factories were down 3.5 percent in September, which was the biggest monthly decline since January 1996.

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