WASHINGTON - New orders for manufactured durable goods rose $300 million or 0.2% to $215.5 billion in April, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The rise in orders came after a revised 3.7% decrease in March, originally reported as a 4.2% decline.

Excluding transportation, new orders fell 0.6%, and excluding defense they advanced 1.2%. Excluding aircraft, new orders slid 1.9%.

The increase in durable goods orders fell short of the 0.5% increase estimated by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. They had estimated that durable goods excluding transportation would rise 1.0% from March to April.

Durable goods shipments rose $1.5 billion or 0.7% to $222.7 billion in April, following an unrevised 1.0% climb in March. Shipments have risen in four of the past five months.

Unfilled orders for durable goods dropped $700 million or 0.1% to $985.3 billion, following a slight gain in March. It was the first decline in unfilled orders since a 2.1% fall in December 2009.

Inventories, up 27 of the last 28 months, increased $1.1 billion or 0.3% to $364.1 billion, the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992. The gain followed an unrevised 0.4% advance the previous month.

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