Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose in December by the largest amount in three months, led by a huge jump in demand for commercial aircraft and the biggest increase in orders for cars and trucks in more than two years.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that new orders for durable goods rose 3.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted total of $221.9 billion. The gain followed a 2.2 percent November increase and was the strongest showing since an 8.7 percent September advance.

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Orders for commercial aircraft surged by 26.5 percent, reflecting the sizable 212 plane orders that Boeing Co. (BA) booked during the month. There also were gains in a number of other industries, providing evidence that manufacturing is working its way through last year's economic slowdown.

The auto sector, which struggled last year with rising gasoline prices and stiff foreign competition, saw a 6.8 percent rise in orders for vehicles and parts, the biggest one-month gain since August 2004.

Demand was also strong for military aircraft, which saw a 20.5 percent jump in orders.

All transportation sectors rose by 4.8 percent last month after an even bigger 10.2 percent increase in November.

Excluding transportation, orders for durable goods posted a solid 2.3 percent increase, the best showing in this category since last March.

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