A revival in auto production during February pushed factory orders up 1.8% to a seasonally adjusted $231.6 billion after a sharp decline in January, the Commerce Department said Friday.
It said January orders dropped a revised 5.5%, down from an originally reported 5.4% decline, due to fewer orders for everything from cars and airplanes to military tanks.
Excluding transportation, factory orders rose 0.6% in February after falling 0.9% in January.
The rise in orders in February was not enough to compensate for the January shortfall, but analysts said it might mark the beginning of a rebound in the nation’s slumping manufacturing industries.
“It’s a sign that the tempo of activity in the previously depressed industrial sector is picking up as we enter the second quarter,” said David Jones, senior economist with Aubrey Lanston & Co. in New York.
That impression was bolstered by a separate report Friday from the Purchasing Management Assn. of Chicago, showing production rates and new orders gaining in March.