A plunge in orders for military ships and tanks led a broad-based 3 percent decline in January orders for big-ticket goods, the Commerce Department reports.

Virtually all major industry categories declined in January from record December levels, the department's Census Bureau said.The seasonally adjusted $128.1 billion in new orders for expensive manufactured goods designed to last three years or more was 3 percent below December and the largest drop since July 1987, when orders plunged 7.4 percent, the bureau said.

For all of 1988, new orders for expensive, long-lasting goods rose 10.9 percent to $1.43 trillion, the largest increase since 1984, when new orders jumped 12.3 percent, the bureau said.

The largest January decrease was in transportation equipment, down 7.2 percent to $367 billion. The drop was concentrated in orders for shipbuilding equipment and tanks, while orders for aircraft and parts, although down from December, continued strong.

Excluding the volatile transportation sector, new orders declined 1.2 percent, the first drop since the 0.4 percent decline in September, the bureau said.

Excluding defense, orders for durable goods declined 0.4 percent, the first drop since a 2.5 percent decrease in September, the bureau said.

Orders for non-electrical machinery declined 0.8 percent to $21.5 billion and primary metals also dropped, down 1.2 percent, with a decrease in non-ferrous metals more than offsetting an increase in steel orders.

Shipments of durable goods were unchanged from December at $124.2 billion, the bureau said.

Unfilled orders increased 0.9 percent to $451.7 billion, continuing a 23-month strong upward trend, the bureau said.