Area Development
Factory orders rose 0.2 percent in December, according to the Commerce Department. Increased demand for machinery and communications equipment drove the growth. Orders reached $436 billion in December, 23.6 percent higher than the lowest point of the recession in March 2009.

Economists expect businesses to utilize tax breaks that Congress passed in December to increase spending on new equipment, which will in turn drive the growth of manufacturing. The tax breaks expire after this year.

However, durable goods orders decreased 2.3 percent in December. A significant drop in demand for commercial aircraft pulled that figure down. Demand in the transportation industry declined 12.7 percent as a result. But motor vehicle demand, including parts, increased 1.7 percent.

Nondurable goods orders increased 2.3 percent in December.