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WASHINGTON (AP) — Orders to U.S. factories declined broadly in May after nine straight months of gains.

The Commerce Department says orders for manufactured goods decreased by 1.4 percent in May. It was the biggest drop since March 2009.

Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders fell by 0.6 percent. In April, orders grew by 1.0 percent.

The numbers cast a cloud over the manufacturing sector. Factories have been a rare bright spot, helping lead the country out of recession with increased hiring and productivity.

However, economists fear high unemployment and less demand for exports could cause them to slow in the coming months.

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