U.S. manufacturers received fewer orders for durable goods in March than they did in February, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

Excluding transportation items, which tend to be volatile, durable goods fell 0.5 percent from the previous month's gain of 1.9 percent increase.

Analysts expected, on average, a 0.7 percent increase in March. 

The government's durable goods figures are a leading indicator of production as rising purchase orders signal that manufacturers will increase activity as they work to fill the orders.