Core private-sector machinery orders rose nationally by 2.1 percent in February from the previous month, boosted by robust demand from manufacturers in an encouraging sign of a strengthening economy, government data showed Wednesday.

The orders, which exclude those for ships and from utilities because of their volatility, stood at ¥891 billion ($8.3 billion), the largest figure since January 2016, according to the Cabinet Office.

The result was much stronger than market forecasts, which had predicted a slide of around 2.5 percent. The increase in machinery orders, seen as an indicator of future capital spending by companies, followed an 8.2 percent rise in January.