Washington (AFP) - Orders for manufactured big-ticket products continued to rise in February, boosted by strong civilian aircraft sales, the US Commerce Department reported Friday.
Aircraft sales, which can cause large swings in the data, were not the only story, however, as orders excluding the volatile transportation category have now risen for six consecutive months.
President Donald Trump has spotlighted the US manufacturing sector in his jobs-focused economic agenda, although Friday's data was further indication the sector was already recovering.
Durable goods orders rose a strong 1.7 percent to $235.4 billion last month, well above an analyst forecast for a gain of 1.3 percent. The monthly increase was slower than January's upwardly-revised 2.3 percent jump.
The gain in February was led in large part by a 47.6 percent pop in orders for civilian aircraft, which followed an 83.3 percent jump in the prior month, showing how the high-priced planes can swing the numbers dramatically from one month to the next.
Aircraft maker Boeing booked 43 orders for civilian aircraft over the month, a large upswing from January, when it booked only 11, according to Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Excluding the transportation sector, durable goods orders rose 0.4 percent, the sixth consecutive monthly gain.
Outside the defense sector, orders rose 2.1 percent, the third consecutive monthly increase.
Orders for capital goods -- such as machinery and equipment -- rose 2.6 percent. The gradual rise in oil prices since late summer helped drive a recovery in capital expenditures, which began a sharp decline in late 2014, dragging on GDP growth.
Shepherdson noted that "core" capital goods, which exclude defense and aircraft, actually fell a tenth of a point in February, erasing January's slender gain.
However, the trend is still upwards after December's 0.8 percent gain, he said, adding that manufacturing surveys suggested coming numbers would be higher.
"We're hoping for better news ahead," he wrote in a client note.
The defense sector weighed on the overall results, with military aircraft orders down 12.8 percent and defense capital goods down 8.3 percent. Communications equipment also fell 3.8 percent for the month.