WASHINGTON — U.S. factories rose sharply in February from January, helped by a surge in demand for volatile aircraft. The gain offset a drop in orders that signal business investment.

The Commerce Department says factory orders rose 3 percent in February, up from a 1 percent decline in January. It was the best showing in five months.

Orders for all durable goods, which are products expected to last at least three years, jumped 5.6 percent. Orders for nondurable goods, such as processed food and clothing, edged rose 0.8 percent.

Still, core capital goods, which include machinery and equipment orders, fell 3.2 percent. The decline followed a 6.7 percent surge in January, the largest in nearly three years. Economists closely watch these orders because they signal business investment plans.

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