The Commerce Dept. said today that new orders for U.S. factory goods beat expectations in March and that February's numbers were better than previously reported. The government said the value of new manufactured goods rose 0.4% to a seasonally adjusted $318.5 billion in March. Economists on Wall Street had predicted an increase of only 0.1%, according to Reuters. That followed a revised orders rise of 0.2% in February, up from the previously reported fall of 0.1%. Despite March's overall increase, durable goods fell 0.5%. The Commerce Dept. said this number did not include volatile data for semiconductors because of the large numbers of manufacturers choosing not to participate in the monthly survey. Also, orders for transportation equipment dropped 1.3% in March after jumping 11.3% the previous month. The inventory-to-shipments ratio, which measures the amount of time it would take to totally deplete supplies at the current pace of shipments, dropped to 1.36 months from 1.38 in February.