NEW YORK (AP) -- Manufacturing activity declined for the ninth consecutive month in April, an industry group said Tuesday.
But while the decline continued, it did so at a slightly slower rate than in March, while the broader economy grew at a modest pace, the National Association of Purchasing Management said.
The Tempe, Ariz.-based association's index of business activity rose last month to 43.2 from 43.1 in March. An index above 50 signifies growth in manufacturing, while a figure below 50 shows contraction.An index above 42.7 generally points to growth in the overall economy.
Analysts had been expecting a NAPM index of 43.6.
The April reading signals a slow start to the second quarter and reinforces impressions of a manufacturing sector that ''continues sluggish at best,'' said Norbert J. Ore, who oversees the monthly survey for the NAPM.
Ore said the major concerns among manufacturers continue to be energy costs and softening demand among many markets, but added that the index does offer limited good news.
''As the sector is struggling to gain a foothold that will reverse the decline, it is encouraging that pricing pressures appear to be moderating and inventory liquidation has accelerated,'' he said.
The report is closely watched because it is one of the first indications of economic activity in April in the important manufacturing industry. The figures are based on a survey of purchasing executives who buy the raw materials for manufacturing at more than 350 industrial companies.
Separately, the Commerce Department said Tuesday that construction spending posted a bigger-than-expected gain in March, the fifth monthly increase in a row. The strength came from commercial building, home improvements and government projects.
The markets were mixed following the release of the reports, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 13 points to 1,748 and the Nasdaq composite index off 18 points to 2,098.
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