Manufacturing activity rises to 7-month high

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Manufacturing activity expanded for a 17th month in a row in December, rising to the highest level in seven months, a purchasing managers' group said Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management's index for manufacturing activity ticked up to 57 in December. That's the highest reading since May and up from 56.6 in November.

The reading came in slightly lower than the 57.3 level expected by a consensus of economists. Any reading of more than 50 indicates expansion in the sector, and the index has remained above this mark for 17 consecutive months.

"We saw significant recovery for much of the U.S. manufacturing sector in 2010," said Norbert Ore, chairman of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, in a statement. "The recovery centered on strength in autos, metals, food, machinery, computers and electronics, while those industries tied primarily to housing continue to struggle."

Strong global demand and a weaker dollar has also helped boost manufacturing activity, said Ore.

New orders and production were bright spots in the latest report, and these components are likely to push the index higher in the first quarter of 2011, he said.

The component for new orders rose to 60.9 from 56.6 in November, while the production measure picked up to 60.7 from 55.

The employment component slowed to 55.7 from 57.5. To top of page

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