WASHINGTON — Orders at U.S. factories increased by 1.2 percent in August, driven by strong gains in aluminum and other metals, industrial machinery and autos.
The solid showing follows a steep drop of 3.3 percent in July, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Recent hurricanes didn't impact the data, the department said.
The report suggests U.S. manufacturing is benefiting from a stronger dollar and an improving global economy. Americans are buying more cars, in part to replace those destroyed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That could boost orders in the coming months. The manufacturing sector continues to look healthy after a survey released earlier this week found that factory activity expanded in September at the fastest pace in 13 years.
A category that serves as a proxy for business investment climbed a solid 1.1 percent after a 1.3 percent increase in July. The gains in business investment show companies are optimistic about future demand from customers.
Orders for metals rose 1.2 percent, its best showing since February, and included a gain of 2.3 percent for aluminum orders.
Industrial machinery orders rose 11.5 percent after two months of declines and orders for autos rose 0.7 percent after declining 2.2 percent the previous month.
Excluding the transportation sector, factory orders rose 0.4 percent in August, after a 0.5 percent gain last month. Transportation includes the volatile aircraft category, in which orders soared nearly 45 percent after a plunge of more than 71 percent in July.
Orders for durable goods — items meant to last at least three years — were back up 2 percent after tumbling 6.8 percent in July.