WASHINGTON -- Orders for manufactured products rose strongly in April, posting their biggest gain since October 2001, the U.S. Commerce Department reported.

Factory orders gained a larger-than-expected 1.2 percent to $323.87 billion in April after a revised 1 percent advance in March. New orders for durable goods -- items meant to last for three or more years -- rose 1.5 percent, bigger than the 1.1 percent gain previously reported.

Many analysts had projected factory orders to post a smaller rise of about 0.8%.