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FACTORY ORDERS FALL FOR 1ST TIME IN 3 MONTHS

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Led by a sharp drop for cars and other transportation equipment, orders to U.S. factories fell in October for the first time in three months.

The Commerce Department said Friday that orders declined 0.4 percent in October. But the government, which originally estimated orders to be down 0.2 percent in September, revised that figure to show a rise of less than 0.1 percent.New orders, a key gauge of the nation's manufacturing sector, have risen in 13 of the past 15 months including a 4.7 percent jump in August that was led by auto demand. They last fell in July, when they were off 2 percent.

Analysts expected orders to fall in October, predicting a decline of 0.6 percent.

Still, other data indicates the economy continues to grow at a solid pace despite higher interest rates.

Earlier Friday, the Labor Department reported a sharp drop in unemployment to 5.6 percent for November. But the government's Index of Leading Economic Indicators, the government's main forecasting gauge, was down 0.1 percent in October.

In the factory report, the Commerce Department said that - excluding the volatile transportation component - orders rose 0.9 percent in October. That indicator was unchanged in September and has risen 16 times in the last 17 months.

Orders for both durable and non-durable goods totaled a seasonally adjusted $286 billion, down from $287.2 billion in September.

Shipments, a measure of current production, decreased 0.7 percent to $284.2 billion in October, the third decline in the last four months and the fifth decrease this year. Shipments fell 0.7 percent in September.