WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New orders for U.S. factory goods rose for a second straight month in March, suggesting strength in manufacturing and the broader economy at the end of the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday new orders for manufactured goods increased 1.1 percent. February's orders were revised to show a 1.5 percent rise instead of the previously reported 1.6 percent gain.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new orders received by factories advancing 1.4 percent in March.
Orders excluding the volatile transportation category rose 0.6 percent after advancing 0.7 percent in February.
Manufacturing is pushing higher after a lull in the winter, but a surge in inventories in the second half of 2013 remains an obstacle to achieving a faster pace of factory activity.
A report on Thursday showed a gauge of national factory activity rose in April for a third month. The Commerce Department report showed inventories increased only 0.1 percent in March, slowing from February's 0.7 percent increase.
In March factory orders rose across all categories. Unfilled orders rose 0.6 percent and shipments increased 0.3 percent.
The department also said orders for durable goods, manufactured products expected to last three years or more, increased 2.9 percent instead of the previously reported 2.6 percent rise.
Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which is seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans, increased 3.5 percent, the largest rise since January 2013, rather than the previously reported 2.2 percent.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)