Factory activity expanded in January at the fastest pace in nearly seven years, manufacturers reported.
According to a new report published Tuesday by the Institute for Supply Management, the index of manufacturing activity rose from 58.5 in December to 60.8 last month. The sector has expanded for 18 straight months, and January's reading was the highest since May 2004. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
The manufacturing sector bottomed out at 33.3 in December 2008, the lowest point since June 1980. Rising industrial output has been a key driver for the economy since the recession ended in June 2009.
Thomas Duesterberg, CEO of Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, said the outlook is good. "Momentum is again building for this sector," Duesterberg said. "Manufacturing will continue to lead the recovery at least through mid-year."
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