WASHINGTON — New orders for manufactured goods dropped 4% in March, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

New orders slipped $19.5 billion to $467.3 billion following a 1.9% advance the previous month, originally reported as a 3% climb. The March decline was the sharpest drop since a 5.1% decrease occurred from July to August 2012.

The latest numbers came in weaker than the expectations of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted that orders would fall 2.5% from the previous month.

Transportation equipment orders experienced a steep decline, falling 15.1% from February. Excluding transportation, new orders dipped 2%. Excluding defense, orders fell 3.5%.

Total shipments fell $5 billion or 1% to $481.8 billion after rising 0.4% in February. Shipments of durable goods increased for the sixth time in seven months, rising $1.1 billion or 0.5% to $230.4 billion following a 0.9% February advance.

Unfilled orders of durable dipped for the second time in three months, falling $7.1 billion or 0.7% to $990.1 billion after a 0.7% rise the previous month.

Total inventories rose for the fourth consecutive month, climbing slightly to $620.2 billion following a 0.2% February increase. That figure is its highest since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992.

Inventories of durable goods fell $400 million or 0.1% to a total of $376.2 billion. The decrease came after a 0.3% uptick the previous month.

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