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Manufacturing growth speeds up: ISM

Keywords: Tags  PMI, Purchasing Manufacturers Index, Institute for Supply Management

NEW YORK — U.S. manufacturing growth sped up in April, recording its 33rd consecutive monthly increase, according to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

"New orders, production and employment indexes all increased, indicating growth at faster rates than in March," said Bradley J. Holcomb, chairman of the organization’s manufacturing business survey committee.

The ISM’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 54.8 percent in April from 53.4 percent in March; a reading above 50 percent indicates that the U.S. manufacturing economy generally is expanding.

The PMI and the employment subindex both recorded the highest readings since last June, IHS Global Insight U.S. economist Michael Montgomery noted, adding that production was at its highest level since March last year while orders were at their strongest reading since last April.

"April was far from a boom, but it was another month of solid gains that had added up to 33 consecutive positives in the ISM arithmetic. The manufacturing sector may not be growing as fast as it fell in the great recession, but it continues to claw its way toward the light," Montgomery said.

Of the 18 industries surveyed, 16—including metal producers and fabricators—reported growth in April.

While survey respondents generally reported stable to strong demand, some aired concerns about increasing oil prices and European stability, Holcomb said.

"The economy was off to a good start through the first quarter, but the European issues keep coming up, as well as the recent disappointing jobs report," one metal fabricator said. "It appears that some of the early gains may be temporary."

One metal producer expects strength in the market to continue. "Business conditions on a national scale have a very positive outlook for the commercial metals we provide. At this point, we’ve outperformed each quarter’s goal and anticipate a strong finish," he said.

Commodity prices were generally up, with alloys, aluminum products, fabricated metals and ferroalloys all posting gains. Steel saw mixed results, depending on the product.

Metal producers and fabricators both reported increased orders and production in April, with employment also growing.

Order backlogs increased for metal producers, while fabricators saw backlogs fall for the month.

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