Increased demand for cars and aircraft helped push US durable goods orders up by more than double what had been expected in September, Commerce Department data said on Tuesday.
The 1.9 percent seasonally adjusted increase last month was an improvement from August's downwardly revised growth of just 0.4 percent, and came as manufacturers continue clawing back ground lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Transportation equipment made the biggest gains overall, rising 4.1 percent to $76.8 billion, an increase of $3.0 billion.
Motor vehicle and parts orders climbed 1.5 percent, while non-defense aircraft and parts orders reversed months of losses with growth of around $1.8 billion.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said that increase came as Boeing received fewer order cancelations last month.
The planemaker is nearer to recertifying its 737 MAX jet to fly after it was grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes, with the head of the European aviation safety agency saying this month its was "safe" to return to service.
Overall, new orders excluding defense rose 3.4 percent, after defense aircraft and parts slumped by 46.1 percent in September.
Orders excluding transportation rose 0.8 percent, while the so-called "core" orders of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft climbed 1.0 percent.
Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said that despite the better-than-expected September numbers, the month's year-on-year growth was slower than in the same month in 2019, indicating momentum lost by business shutdowns to stop Covid-19 that began last March.
While many manufacturers have adapted to the new work environment, she warned that resurgent virus cases in the United States could hamper further gains.
"While the September data are positive, the risk to the manufacturing sector now comes from surging virus cases that could result in supply chains disruptions, weigh on demand and slow the pace of rebound going forward," Farooqi wrote in an analysis.