New orders received by U.S. factories edged up in December and shipments of finished products were stronger, signaling a continuing pickup in activity for the nation's manufacturing sector.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday that total factory orders rose 0.2% to a seasonally adjusted $426.8 billion -- contrary to forecasts for a 0.5% decline made by Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters and following an upwardly revised 1.3% boost in November orders.
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Excluding the volatile transportation category, December orders increased by 1.7% after a 3.3% jump in November. It was a fifth successive monthly pickup in orders excluding transportation goods.
Healthier manufacturing activity has helped lead recovery from the recession triggered by the 2007-2009 financial crisis and shows signs that it will continue to do so. Machinery orders were up 10.6% in December, helping offset a 12.7% decline in orders for transportation goods.
Unfilled orders eased slightly by 0.4% in the closing month of 2010 but the department noted that followed eight straight months in which orders had posted increases.