updated 2/2/2007 11:08:26 AM ET 2007-02-02T16:08:26

Orders placed with U.S. factories rebounded in December, growing by 2.4 percent, the most in nine months.

The increase came after factory orders rose by 1.2 percent in November, the Commerce Department reported Friday. December’s performance, the best showing since March, was stronger than the 1.8 percent gain that economists were forecasting. The improvement reflected stronger demand for a variety of manufacturered goods including airplanes, machinery and primary metals, including steel.

For all of 2006, factory orders rose by 5.3 percent. That was down from 8.1 percent in 2005 and was the smallest increase since a 0.9 percent rise in 2003.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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