WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods shot up in May, rising a bigger-than-expected 6 percent and led by a burst in demand for electronics equipment.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that last month's increase in orders for durable-goods -- items expected to last at least three years -- was the largest gain since December and left orders at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $218.9 billion.
The gain was twice as big as the 3 percent increase many analysts were expecting. The durable-goods data, economists have cautioned, tend to be volatile and can swing widely from month to month.
''The new data suggests that the manufacturing sector is not cooling off anywhere near as much as previously believed,'' said First Union economist Mark Vitner.
In April, durable-goods orders fell 5.7 percent, which was a stronger performance than the 6.5 percent drop the government previously estimated.
Last month's performance largely reflected a 26 percent increase in orders for electronics and electrical equipment, including semiconductors, circuit boards and home appliances. That was the largest gain since August 1997. In April, such orders fell a steep 17.6 percent, not as bad as the record 20.1 percent drop the government estimated a month ago.
The Federal Reserve has boosted interest rates six times since last June to slow the supercharged economy and keep inflation from becoming a problem.
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