U.S. durable goods orders rose 3 percent in December, boosted for the second consecutive month by transportation orders, the Commerce Department said Thursday. New orders for U.S. factories rose to $214.5 billion, rising for the fifth month in the past six. Excluding the volatile and influential category of transportation, orders rose 2.1 percent. Orders with defense items excluded rose 3.5 percent. Transportation orders, which rose by $7 billion in November, rose another $3 billion to reach $58.4 billion. Transportation is isolated from the overall data because planes, trains, ships and trucks are so costly they can dramatically shift the total durable goods figure. Inventories of goods expected to last three years or more rose for the 24th consecutive month, rising by 0.3 percent, to $370.1 billion. Transportation inventories, also up for 24 months, rose by 1.5 percent to $116.4 billion.