WASHINGTON - Businesses ordered more factory goods in November, responding to stronger consumer demand for household appliances, computers, and furniture.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that total orders increased 0.7 percent in November. That follows a 0.7 percent drop in October.

The overall manufacturing figure was pulled down by a drop in volatile transportation orders. Excluding aircraft and autos, orders rose 2.4 percent - the largest jump for that category in eight months.

The November increase left total orders at $424.5 billion. Economists consider that a healthy range for manufacturing activity. It's 20.4 percent above the recession low, hit in March 2009.

Manufacturing activity has expanded in every month since the recession officially ended in June 2009. Analysts said November's increase in factory orders should translate into further gains in production in 2011.

Overall, orders for long-lasting goods dropped 0.3 percent. But the decline was heavily influenced by a 50.6 percent plunge in orders for commercial aircraft. Most big-ticket consumer goods showed gains.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve officials decided to stick with the pace of their $600 billion Treasury bond-buying program last month because the economy wasn't improving fast enough to make a noticeable dent in unemployment, according to minutes of their meeting released Tuesday. - AP

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