New orders declined $9.6 billion to $472.9 billion. Economists had predicted a drop of 2.2 percent.
Factory orders have dropped two of the past three months.
In January, excluding transportation items, orders rose 1.3 percent, indicating the decline isn't as broad as it might appear.
Transportation items are big-ticket purchases, including trucks, trains, ships and planes. A pullback in those items isn't always indicative of a general decline. In addition, the price of these items makes the category unduly influential over the rest of the data.
New orders for transportation items, down three of the past four months, fell 19.8 percent in January, a $14.8 billion decline to $59.6 billion.
The Census Bureau News said factory inventories, up for the second consecutive month, rose 0.5 percent or $3.2 billion to $618.4 billion.
Inventories of durable goods, up for 15 of the past 16 months, rose 0.2 percent to $375 billion. Inventories of non-durable goods, which are goods not expected to last for three years, rose 1 percent to $243.4 billion.