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Factory orders signal confidence

WASHINGTON — US orders for machinery and other factory goods that signal business investment surged in January, indicating confidence in the economy.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for so-called core capital goods, which also include equipment and computers, rose 7.2 percent from December. It was the biggest gain in more than a year and higher than the initial 6.3 percent increase estimated by the government last week.

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Total factory orders fell 2 percent in January from December. But the decline was mostly because of a steep drop in volatile aircraft and defense orders that was also reported last week.

Demand for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, dropped 4.9 percent. Demand for nondurable goods, such as chemicals and paper, rose 0.6 percent.

Economists pay close attention to core capital goods because they are a good measure of business investment plans. The category excludes aircraft and military orders, which can fluctuate sharply.

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