NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Orders for long-lasting goods made at U.S. factories soared in March, the government reported Friday, coming in well above economists' estimates.
Durable orders jumped 3.4 percent in March after an upwardly revised gain of 3.8 percent in February, the Commerce Department reported. Economists expected orders to rise by 0.7 percent in March, according to Briefing.com.
Following the report, U.S. equity futures held onto gains and bond prices turned lower, pushing the yield on the 10-year note to 4.41 percent, up from 4.38 late Thursday.
The durables report adds to a string of strong economic numbers from the retail, employment and purchasing sectors that prompted Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to say Wednesday that interest rates must eventually rise.
The rise in orders for cars, computers, aircraft and other long-lasting goods was broad-based, with orders excluding transportation goods up 3.3 percent and orders outside the defense sector rising 3.8 percent. The reading excluding transportation was the strongest in almost two years.
The report signals more good news for the manufacturing sector, which has been slow to recover from the 2001 recession. And despite solid growth in the broader economy, the nation's businesses have been reluctant to invest in new plants and equipment.
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"They're very good numbers. It's telling us the manufacturing sector of the economy is clearly in recovery. It looks like we had not only a strong March but an even better February than the government previously estimated," Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis, told Reuters.
In its report, the department said orders for primary metals jumped 7.2 percent, the biggest gain since October, while orders for machinery rose 3.1 percent. Computer and electronic products orders edged up 0.2 percent.
Notably, orders for defense-related capital goods slipped 6.1 percent, the second decline in three months.
-- from staff and wire reports