- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz., March 3 (UPI) — U.S. manufacturing activity continued to expand for the fourth straight month, but the rate of expansion fell slightly in February, the Institute for Supply Management reported Monday.

The institute reported that its key purchase management index reached 50.5 percent, down from 53.9 percent in January. Its new orders index also dropped, down to 52.3 percent in February from 59.7 percent the previous month.

"The manufacturing sector continued to grown in February, but the rate of growth slowed when compared to January. While production remained strong, there was a significant slowing in the rate of growth of new orders. Manufacturing jobs continue to decline as the employment rate of decline accelerated," said ISM's manufacturing business survey committee chairman Norbert Ore.

A reading above 50 indicates that the manufacturing sector continues to grow, while a figure below 50 signals a contraction.

"Supply managers are certainly being challenged by current business conditions. While volumes seem to fluctuate, prices are rising on many commodities pushed by higher energy prices," Ore said, suggesting that continued concerns about a war on Iraq is dampening business sentiment.

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