Factory orders increased for a third straight month in April, a sign that a manufacturing expansion can help boost hiring and economic growth.
Orders for durable goods, which are long-lasting products, increased unexpectedly by 0.8 percent last month after a 3.6 percent gain in March, which was higher than initially reported, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
But taking out defense, notably aircraft, orders would have fallen 0.8 percent in April.
Excluding transportation new orders increased 0.1 percent.
Orders for transportation equipment, which also have risen for three straight months, led the overall increase, up 2.3 percent.
Also, a proxy for business investment plans fell 1.2 percent last month, the biggest drop since January, after a 4.7 percent increase in March.
On Thursday, a new estimate of the nation's growth is due out for the first three months after a year, which may show a contraction.
The first report showed a flagging economy, which grew at an anemic 0.1 percent rate as cold winter weather weighed on consumer spending.
Despite the struggles in the January-March period, growth is expected to hit an annual rate of upward of 4 percent in the second quarter with the economy picking up pace heading into the warmer months.
Business investment is expected to bolster that growth after falling 2.8 percent in the first quarter on drops in spending on equipment.
Two separate reports on Tuesday reflected an improving economy — home prices in May increased at a slower pace, which should lead to a pick up in sales, amid improving consumer confidence, which rose in May to the second highest level since 2008.