Factory orders up for third straight month

Factory orders increased for the third straight month in April, a sign that manufacturing is picking up steam after a harsh winter.

New orders of manufactured goods increased $3.4 billion or 0.7 percent to $499.8 billion, the highest level since this series was first published in 1992, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

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March's increase was revised up to a 1.5 percent increase and February saw a 1.7 percent gain after drops in December and January. 

The economy contracted in the first quarter — at a 1 percent annual rate — but economists expect growth to pick up pace in the April-June period. 

After pulling back during the cold winter, businesses are trying to restock in anticipation of stronger demand heading into the warmer months.

To that end, inventories increased 0.4 percent in April, while shipments increased $1.7 billion or 0.3 percent to $497.6 billion, which was the third straight month of increases.

Orders for durable goods, products expected to last at least three years, increased 0.6 percent in April.

Transportation equipment, also up three consecutive months, led the increase, up $1.1 billion or 1.4 percent to $76.4 billion.

New orders for manufactured nondurable goods increased $1.9 billion or 0.7 percent to $259.9 billion.

In a separate report on Monday, the Institute for Supply Management said that its manufacturing index showed a solid increase to 55.4 in May, another indication that the economy is strengthening.