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Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket durable goods soared 6 percent in August - the biggest rise in nearly two years - after a sharp drop the previous month, the government said Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said the rebound, anticipated by analysts, was led by a turnaround in demand for automobiles and parts.In July, durable goods orders plunged 4 percent - revised slightly from an earlier 4.2 percent estimate - largely because auto assembly plants shut down for two weeks to retool for the new model year.

Orders for items expected to last more than three years are at a record level and now have risen in 11 of the past 13 months.

Although there are signs the economy is cooling as interest rates rise, analysts said manufacturing demand is likely to remain strong. Orders for durable goods, including such items as computers and appliances, are a key measure of manufacturing strength.

The August advance in durable goods orders was the largest since orders skyrocketed 9.1 percent in December 1992.

All major categories rose, including orders for electronic and other electrical equipment, primary metals and industrial machinery.

For the first eight months of the year, new orders were 13.8 percent above the same period for 1993.