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Manufacturing Index Up in January; Auto, Housing Recoveries Cited as Key to Growth

Activity in U.S. factories rose slightly in January, according to the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) monthly manufacturing index. The ISM's index for the month was 35.6, up from 32.9 in December 2008 but still indicative of a deep decline in activity; a reading of below 50 indicates contraction. The number was, however, higher than industry analysts' average predictions of 32.6. "While this is a significant month-over-month improvement, it is still a sign of continuing weakness in the sector," says Norbert J. Ore, CPM, chair of the ISM's Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "Comments from our respondents indicate that it will take recovery in automobiles and housing for the manufacturing sector to once again prosper." According to the ISM, the textiles and petroleum and coal products sectors reported growth in January; all other sectors reported contraction. The ISM's index is based on data compiled from surveys of manufacturing industry purchasing and supply executives.

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