P. M. BRIEFING : Factory Orders Fall 1.3% in January

<i> From Times wire service</i> s

Factory orders fell 1.3% in January in the largest decline in five months as transportation orders, mainly for defense goods, were cut back, the Commerce Department said today.

Excluding volatile defense orders, factory orders edged up 0.2% in January, the department said. The $3.1-billion decline in factory orders was the first since a 1.9% drop in September and was in line with most analysts’ predictions. It brought the level of orders in January to $235.8 billion, adjusted for seasonal changes.

For all of last year, factory orders gained 9.7% over the previous year, when they rose 7.1%. But volatility in the defense and transportation categories can cause wide fluctuations in factory orders from month to month.