Orders for goods meant to last at least three years increased 2.6% in March, the biggest gain since November, after rising 2.1% the prior month, the Commerce Department reported April 24.
The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 2% rise.
Orders excluding transportation equipment, which is often volatile, rose by the most in more than a year.
“Manufacturing is going to expand slowly but surely,” said Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. “The economy is going to lean on consumer spending and business investment for growth in coming months.”
Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for future business investment in items like computers, engines and communications gear, increased 2.2%. It was the biggest gain in four months and followed a revised 1.1% drop that was smaller than previously estimated.
Capital goods demand increased at a 3.1% annualized rate in the first three months of the year, compared with a 1.9% gain the fourth quarter.