New orders for U.S. factory-made products posted a second straight monthly rise in December and business capital spending also picked up, a government report on Friday showed.
The Commerce Department said orders for manufactured goods increased 1.1 per cent, slightly below Wall Street economist's forecast for a 1.5-per-cent gain.
But November's gain was revised up to 2.2 per cent from a previously reported 1.8 per cent and there were signs in the report of a firmer pace of overall factory activity.
During the full year 2011, factory orders gained 12.1 per cent after a 12.9 per cent rise in 2010.
Orders for non-defence capital goods excluding aircraft – a closely watched category because it is taken as a sign of businesses' future spending plans – climbed a solid 3.1 per cent in December. That followed declines of 1.5 per cent in November and 0.9 per cent in October.
Shipments for this category also increased by 3.1 per cent in December after matching decreases of 0.9 per cent in each of the two prior months.
Business spending had been a driver of the recovery since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which pushed the U.S. economy into a deep recession.
During December, there were widespread gains in key order categories from computers to fabricated metal products and transportation equipment. Orders for electrical equipment were down from November, one of the few categories that declined.