Orders for big-ticket manufactured items jumped sharply in March, but the strength was confined to transportation-related goods, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

Durable goods orders rose 3.0 percent in the month, their largest gain since November of last year, to $205.12 billion. But excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders actually slid 1.8 percent, the biggest monthly decline since December and adding to evidence that the U.S. factory sector, which has taken the brunt of the recent economic slowdown, remains troubled.

Commerce said orders for transportation goods, which rose a robust 21.4 percent, were boosted by gains in shipbuilding and tanks. Excluding defense-related goods, durable goods orders were up 0.9 percent.

The report was simultaneously stronger and weaker than had been anticipated by Wall Street analysts, who had projected a 0.6 percent increase in overall orders and a 0.4 percent decline in non-transportation orders.

February durables orders, originally reported as declining 0.4 percent, were revised to a 0.3 percent drop.