WASHINGTON - New orders for manufactured goods rose $12.9 billion or 2.8% to $478.6 billion in July, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The July increase followed an unrevised decline of 0.5% in June, and surpassed the median 1.8%  gain predicted by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. The increase was the largest since a 3.3% advance in July 2011.

Driving the increase were orders for transportation equipment, which jumped 14.4%. Excluding transportation, new orders rose 0.7% in July. 

Shipments rose $9.5 billion or 2.0% to $478.8 billion in July, following a 1.2% decrease the previous month.

Unfilled orders, now up for two consecutive months, increased $7.9 billion or 0.8% to $996.6 billion. That advance followed a 0.4% rise in June.

Inventories rose for the first time in four months, climbing $3.1 billion or 0.5% to $607.3 billion. The increase came after a 0.1% decline the previous month. The July inventory level was the highest since the data was first published on an NAICS basis in 1992.

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