ISM manufacturing index hits 51.8 in Mar.; construction spending down 0.5% in Feb.

A worker installs tires on a Jeep Wrangler at the Chrysler Toledo North Assembly Plant in Toledo, Ohio.

A worker installs tires on a Jeep Wrangler at the Chrysler Toledo North Assembly Plant in Toledo, Ohio.

.U.S. manufacturers expanded in March, ending a five-month streak of declining factory activity.

The Institute for Supply Management says that its manufacturing index rose to 51.8 last month from 49.5 in February. Any reading above 50 signals growth.

But the details of the survey-based report were uneven. New orders and production shot up, but employment at manufacturers contracted.

American manufacturers have been hurt by economic weakness overseas and a strong dollar, which makes U.S. products more expensive in foreign markets. The government jobs report released separately on Friday showed that manufacturers shed 29,000 jobs in March and 18,000 in February.

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US construction spending retreats in February

U.S. construction spending fell in February by the largest amount in three months. Weakness in nonresidential construction and government offset the strongest month for home construction in more than eight years.

Construction spending was expected to rise 0.1 percent in February, after a 1.5 percent rise the prior month, according to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates.

The Commerce Department says construction spending fell 0.5 percent in February following a 2.1 percent January gain. Spending declines on construction of factories, communication facilities and other nonresidential activities fell by 1.3 percent in February. Sending on government projects was down 1.7 percent.

Those declines offset a solid 0.9 percent rise in home construction, which pushed that sector to the highest point since October 2007.

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Home construction has been a bright spot for the economy, growing at a sizzling 10.1 percent rate in the fourth quarter. Analysts are forecasting housing will remain strong this year.

 

[SOURCE :-cnbc]