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Orders to U.S. factories for costly manufactured goods rebounded last month from a sharp drop in April as demand for cars and semiconductors registered especially strong increases.

The Commerce Department reported today that orders for durable goods -- items expected to last at least three years -- jumped by 2.9 percent last month, a much stronger performance than the 0.4 percent rise many analysts were predicting.

May's increase followed a steep 5.5 percent decline in April and was the best showing since February.

The report, which showed an increased appetite for many big-ticket goods, provided a bright spot for manufacturers.

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