New orders for U.S. factory goods in March recorded their biggest decline in three years as demand for transportation equipment and a range of other goods slumped, government data showed on Wednesday.
The Commerce Department said orders for manufactured goods dropped 1.5 percent after a revised 1.1 percent rise in February.
Economists had forecast orders falling 1.6 percent after a previously reported 1.3 percent increase in February.
While the report showed broad weakness in March in a sector that has carried the economic recovery, anecdotal evidence suggests factories continued to expand as the second quarter started.
When you start as low as the manufacturing sector started after the recession, there's literally nowhere to go but up. Such a precipitous drop may not presage another recession, but it is a reminder that we have a long way to go in this recovery.