New orders received by U.S. factories rose in February, government data showed on Thursday, breaking a six-month streak of declines and bolstering hopes the economy may be beginning to crawl out of the depths of a recession.

The Commerce Department said factory orders rose 1.8 percent in February after a revised 3.5 percent drop in January, initially reported as a 1.9 percent decline.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a February increase of 1.5 percent.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, seen as a measure of business confidence, jumped 7.1 percent after a steep 12.3 percent drop in January.

Orders for durable goods rose 3.5 percent, revised from the previously published 3.4 percent increase, while orders for nondurable goods edged up 0.3 percent.

Inventories decreased 1.2 percent, down for a sixth consecutive month. That was the longest streak since March 2003-January 2004.

(Reporting by Emily Kaiser, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)