New orders for durable goods fell sharply in July, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday. Durable goods orders dropped 7.3 percent to $226.6 billion, a drop of $17.8 billion that was far more than economists had expected. The consensus forecast called for a decline of about 3 percent. New orders fell after four consecutive gains. In June, new orders rose 3.9 percent over May, a figure left unrevised from the previous report. The U.S. Census Bureau said orders for big-ticket transportation items -- ships, trucks, planes and railroad cars -- fell after rising for four months out of the previous five. New transportation orders in July dropped by 19.4 percent or $16.7 billion to $69.7 billion. The biggest contribution to the decline came from commercial aircraft orders, which dropped by $14.5 billion. Shipments of durable goods, down in three of the past four months, declined by 0.3 percent to $228.8 billion. Shipments of electronic goods and computers fell by 3.2 percent to $26.6 billion. Non-defense orders for capital goods in July fell by 15.4 percent or $14.2 billion to $78 billion. That measures how much investment was plowed into business machinery in the month, including printing press and other factory equipment. It is considered a key measure of business confidence.