Manufacturing in U.S. accelerates to cap best year since 2004

A Computer Numeric Control operator works alongside robots manufacturing gears at the SEW-Eurodrive Inc. production facility in Lyman South Carolina U.S. on Friday

Growth in the US economy's manufacturing sector unexpectedly improved in December, according to data from the US Institute for Supply Management.

December marked 16 consecutive months of growth in the manufacturing sector and 103 straight months of growth for the USA economy as a whole.

The production index gained almost two points to 65.8 per cent, while new orders surged 5.4 points to 69.4 per cent, the strongest since January 2004 and marking seven straight months above 60.

Fiore, chair of the ISM, said: "This indicates growth in manufacturing for the 16th consecutive month, led by strong expansion in new orders and production with hiring growing at a slower rate and supplier deliveries continuing to struggle". That's the fastest pace of new orders since January 2004.The employment index was one of the only weak spots, falling to 57 from 59.7.

The Prices Index was 69 percent in December, a 3.5 percent increase from last month, and representative of higher raw materials prices for the 22nd consecutive month.

What happened: Sixteen of the 18 industries tracked by ISM reported growth.

The December PMI registered 59.7, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the November reading of 58.2. Ten industries reported higher inventories, while seven reported a decrease. The 2017 average was 57.6 and was made possible through strong domestic business investment and increased household spending, despite a dip in November following a number of devastating hurricanes. Of the eighteen manufacturing industries, sixteen reported growth, while two reported contraction. The production index was like the one for new orders in terms of its overall strength, exceeding 60 since its June reading.

According to ISM, any reading above 50 points shows an increase in factory activity. Heading into 2018, it will be interesting to see if these trends continue or if production levels can pace closer to new orders.

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