Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Manufacturing in U.S. Expands Unexpectedly

Manufacturing unexpectedly expanded in September after three months of contraction, reflecting stronger orders that ease concern the U.S. economy will slow further.

The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index rose to 51.5 last month from 49.6 in August, the Tempe, Arizona-based group said yesterday. Readings above 50 show expansion, and the September measure exceeded the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

The ISM’s new orders measure rose to a four-month high of 52.3 from 47.1. The employment index advanced to 54.7 from an almost three-year low of 51.6 the prior month. The gain from August was the biggest since October 2009. The group’s measures of production, export demand, prices paid and order backlogs also climbed in September.

The figures showed American factories are holding up in contrast to their counterparts in Europe and Asia.

The ISM figures compare with others showing weakness worldwide. In the euro-area, manufacturing contracted for a 14th month in September, suggesting the economy may have struggled to avoid a recession in the third quarter. A gauge of the industry in the 17-nation currency region based on a survey of purchasing managers was 46.1, Markit Economics said today. The index has held for 14 months below 50, indicating contraction, and fell as low as 44 in July.

U.K. factories shrank more than economists forecast and export orders declined for a sixth month. A measure based on a survey of purchasing managers fell to 48.4 from 49.6 in August, Markit Economics and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply said in London today.

In China, manufacturing contracted for an 11th straight month, increasing pressure on the government to bolster growth in the world’s second-largest economy. The purchasing managers’ index from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics was at 47.9 last month, compared with 47.6 in August. Export orders declined at the fastest pace in 42 months and factory purchasing activity fell for a fifth consecutive month, the Sept. 29 report showed.

“We are in no way thinking we’re going to see a recession in 2013,” Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman said. “Europe’s in recession today, probably going be a while to dig out.”

To boost growth and stimulate more hiring that may provide a spark for the economy, the Fed last month said it would keep its target interest rate close to zero until at least mid-2015 and began a third round of stimulus, buying $40 billion in mortgage bonds a month.

“If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases and employ its other policy tools as appropriate,” the Federal Open Market Committee said Sept. 13 in a statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Washington.

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