WASHINGTON (AP) - Businesses cut back sharply on their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in December with a key category that signals business investment plans falling by the biggest amount in five months.

WASHINGTON (AP) Businesses cut back sharply on their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in December with a key category that signals business investment plans falling by the biggest amount in five months.

The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods fell 4.3 percent in December compared with November, when orders had risen 2.6 percent. The weakness was led by a big 17.5 percent drop in the volatile category of commercial aircraft.

There was widespread weakness in a number of categories including a 1.3 percent decline in demand for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft. This category is viewed as a proxy for business investment plans.

Some of the December weakness probably reflected a temporary dip following November's big jump which had been driven by businesses rushing to take advantage of expiring tax breaks.