Durable goods orders rose in February before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began to hit the U.S. economy.
Orders increased 1.2 percent to $249.4 billion, the Commerce Department said in a report this week. It was the fourth monthly gain in the past five months.
Transportation equipment drove the increase. The category gained 4.6 percent in February to $87 billion. Excluding transportation, orders declined 0.6 percent. Excluding defense, new orders rose 0.1 percent.
Within transportation, motor vehicles and parts rose 1.8 percent to $60.3 billion. The increase likely will be short-lived.
Automakers have closed U.S. factories temporarily amid the COVID-19 outbreak, part of efforts to combat the highly contagious virus. Ford Motor Co. said this week it wants to restart some of its plants as early as April 6.
Many states have ordered non-essential businesses closed, resulting in at least short-term layoffs. Vehicle sales are slumping, part of a general blow to the economy.
Orders for commercial aircraft fell 0.3 percent to $8.7 billion. Orders for defense aircraft slid 15 percent to $3.8 billion.
Among other categories, orders for fabricated metal products slipped 1.2 percent to $33.3 billion. Orders for primary metals declined 0.9 percent to $20 billion. Orders for machinery fell 0.5 percent to $32.4 billion.
The report is based on a survey of about 3,100 companies.