US manufacturing index rises last month as factories weather global weakness

WASHINGTON – U.S. factories were busier in October, a sign that manufacturing is on sound footing despite growing concerns about the global economy.

Orders, productivity and hiring all grew faster than they did in September, according to a private survey.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, reported Monday that its manufacturing index rebounded to 59 last month from 56.6 in September. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

The result matches a three-year high hit in August and reverses a September drop.

“Today’s report suggests that the manufacturing sector is expanding and will likely continue at a healthy pace in the coming quarter,” Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a research note.

Sixteen of 18 manufacturing industries grew last month, and new orders accelerated. Only petroleum and coal reported a decrease in activity. Manufacturing exports grew last month but at a slower pace than they did in September.

The “weakening in overseas demand was more than offset by a strengthening in demand at home,” said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics.

Indeed, the U.S. economy is showing promising strength. The Commerce Department reported last week that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent from July through September. The third-quarter growth was driven by gains in business investment, exports and increased military spending.

Employers are adding nearly 227,000 jobs a month this year — on pace to make 2014 the best year for job creation since 1999. The unemployment rate has tumbled to a six-year low 5.9 per cent in September from 7.2 per cent a year earlier.

In a sign of increased confidence in the economy, the Federal Reserve this month ended a bond-buying program intended to push long-term interest rates lower and encourage more spending and borrowing. The Fed still plans to keep short-term rates near zero — where they’ve been since 2008 — for a “considerable time.”