Wall Street opens higher after factory orders rise

Investors returned to Wall Street Wednesday after getting another sign that their doomsday forecast for the economy might have been overdone. The government reported that demand for big-ticket manufactured goods rose in February rather than fell as economists had predicted. Data on durable goods orders can be fickle but the surprise increase is still welcome news for an economy that until weeks ago seemed only capable of producing worsening stats. Orders at US factories for cars, airplanes, household appliances, furniture and other large goods rose 3.4 percent last month, rather than fell 2 percent as forecast. The increase was the biggest in 14 months and breaks a streak of six straight monthly drops. However, a large drop in orders in January was revised even lower. It will take months of improving data before analysts can safely assert that the economy is on the mend. But many traders are simply anxious for any signs that the economy is at least halting its slide.