U.S. manufacturing activity increased in April for the 21st straight month, but at a slower pace than in March, as reported by the Institute for Supply Management. The ISM's index of manufacturing activity fell to 60.4 in April from 61.2 in March - the second straight monthly drop, which may indicate that the manufacturing sector is cooling off after expanding in February at the fastest rate in nearly seven years (readings above 50 signal expansion).
Strong global demand for heavy machinery, computers, and other goods has contributed to the growth of manufacturing since the recession ended in June 2009. U.S. automakers have also rebounded, mostly as a result of stronger spending by U.S. consumers.
In addition, in late April, the Commerce Department reported that companies ordered more industrial machinery, computers, steel, and other durable goods in March, the third consecutive monthly gain. Orders for durable goods rose 2.5 percent in March, a big jump from February's 0.7 percent increase.