Fresh orders at U.S. factories were down 1.5 percent in December after increasing 1.5 percent in November, the Department of Commerce said Tuesday. Factory orders for U.S. manufactured goods dropped by $7.2 billion in the month to $489.2 billion. Excluding transportation orders, fresh business for factories rose 0.2 percent, with orders for durable goods down 4.2 percent to $230 billion and orders for non-durable goods up 1.1 percent to $259.2 billion. After four consecutive monthly increases, shipments of durable goods -- items expected to last three years -- fell 1.7 percent to $233.5 billion. Shipments of non-durable goods, up two consecutive months, rose 1.1 percent to $259.2 billion. The biggest gain in non-durable shipments came from petroleum and coal products, which rose by $2 billion or 2.7 percent to $73.8 billion. Inventories for durable goods, hitting the highest level since 1992, rose 0.8 percent to $387.9 billion, while inventories of non-durable items fell 0.1 percent to $248.7 billion.