Durable goods orders rose in March because of an increase in aircraft orders.
Orders totaled $238.7 billion, according to a monthly report by the US Commerce Department. That’s up 0.7% from an adjusted $237.1 billion in February. It was the third consecutive monthly increase.
Excluding transportation equipment, orders fell 0.2%, according to the report.
The transportation equipment category increased 2.4% to $83.3 billion. Within the category, commercial aircraft and parts rose 7% to $14.4 billion. Defense aircraft and parts surged 26% to $4.9 billion.
Another part of the category faltered. New orders for motorized vehicle and parts slid 0.8% to almost $56 billion.
US sales of cars and light trucks declined 1.5% to 4.03 million during the year’s first three months. Analysts have forecast that 2017 deliveries will decline slightly from record sales of 17.55 million vehicles last year.
Over the past two years, automotive and aerospace have been the strongest performers among manufacturers. Some indicators, such as the Institute for Supply Management’s PMI, an index that measures economic activity in manufacturing, have shown other segments getting stronger.
In other categories, new orders for primary metals rose 0.8% to $19.2 billion. New orders for fabricated metal products slipped 0.8% to $31.2 billion while orders for machinery fell 0.2% to $31.55 billion.