The increase in bookings for big-ticket items last month was the largest since November, with gains in every major category. Orders for computers and electronic products, for example, leaped 5.7% to mark the sharpest spike in almost 3 1/2 years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
The rebound in orders surpassed Wall Street estimates. Economists had expected orders to rise 1.8%.
Higher bookings for commercial aircraft helped lead the way with an 8.6% advance. Boeing received 163 orders for jetliners in March, almost twice as many as in the prior month.Auto orders only rose 0.4%, however.
Stripping out the volatile transportation sector, durable-goods orders rose 2.0%. Bookings for primary metals, which are used in a wide variety of finished industrial goods, rose 2%. That was the sharpest gain since last September.
Orders for core capital goods climbed 2.2% to mark the biggest rise since November. That category is viewed as a good proxy for U.S. business investment, one of the keys to faster economic growth.
Shipments of core capital goods, a figure used to calculate quarterly economic growth, advanced 1.0% in March. That was the second gain in a row and the largest in four months.
Orders for February were revised down to a 2.1% increase from a prior reading of a 2.2% advance.