U.S. Manufacturing Activity Slows Down Slightly in March

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U.S. Manufacturing Activity Slows Down Slightly in MarchU.S. manufacturing grew at a slower pace in March after nearly touching its highest level in four years in February, though hiring figures and growth remained strong, according to financial research company Markit.

Markit said that its initial figures show that U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell from 57.1 last month to the current figure of 55.5. A measure above 50 shows expansion. However, this lagged economists’ expectations of 56.5, but still exceeded January’s figure of 53.7, indicating that toll of the extreme winter weather on the economy has started to dissipate.

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New orders segment declined to 58.0 in March, down from 59.6 last month, partly due to lower overseas demand. Factory output fell to 57.5 from 57.8, but companies continued hiring employees for a ninth successive month.

“The survey adds to evidence that the sector has shrugged off the weather-related weakness seen earlier in the year,” said Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist as reported by Reuters. He added the strong showing by new orders and output was “encouraging news”.

Most analysts predict that the frigid winter weather that affected most parts of the country in the first two months of the year will slow down the economy in the first-quarter. The economy expanded at a rate of 2.3 percent in the last four months of 2013.

However, Williamson expects the U.S. economic prospects to improve this year, based on  the latest manufacturing trends that indicate that the industry grew at an annual rate of approximately 4 percent and employs 10,000 to 15,000 new workers each month.

To contact the reporter of this story; Jonathan Millet at john@forexminute.com