Orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods rebounded more than expected in February and shipments snapped two straight months of declines, providing fresh signs the economy was shaking off some of its winter gloom.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday durable goods orders rose 2.2 percent as demand increased almost across the board, ending two consecutive months of declines.
January orders of these goods, which range from toasters to aircraft and are meant to last three years or longer, were revised to show a slightly bigger 1.3 percent drop.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders to rebound 1.0 percent last month after a previously reported 1.0 percent drop in January.
The report joined other data such as industrial production, retail sales and employment in suggesting a pick-up in economic growth after an unusually harsh winter chilled activity at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year.
First-quarter growth is expected to have slowed from the fourth-quarter's annualized 2.4 percent rate. Growth has also been held back as businesses work through a pile of unsold goods that was accumulated in the second half of 2013.
This means they have little appetite to place large orders with manufacturers, holding back factory production.
The durable goods report showed overall shipments increased 0.9 percent in February, snapping two straight months of declines. Unfilled orders also increased after being flat in January.
But there was a slight wrinkle in the otherwise upbeat report. Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, unexpectedly fell 1.3 percent in February after rising by a revised 0.8 percent the prior month.
Economists had expected orders for these so-called core capital goods to increase 0.7 percent in February after a previously reported 1.5 percent advance in January.
Shipments of these goods, however, rose 0.5 percent last month. Shipments of core capital goods are used to calculate equipment spending in the government's GDP measurement. They had declined 1.4 percent in January.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)