Orders for big-ticket U.S. goods were essentially flat in October, as declines in defense and transportation offset increases in metals, machinery, and electrical equipment, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported today. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected orders for durable goods to drop 0.6%. Orders for core capital goods excluding defense and transportation, a key barometer of broad U.S. business spending, jumped 1.7% last month, the biggest increase since May. Economists had expected core capital goods orders to fall 0.5%. So far in 2012, orders for overall durable goods have risen 4.9%.