- Associated Press - Monday, October 2, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A monthly survey of business leaders released Monday suggests that economic conditions are still improving for nine states in the Midwest or Plains.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose to 58.2 in September, from 57.5 in August, the report said. The July figure was 56.1.

“The overall index over the past several months indicates a healthy regional manufacturing economy” and points to solid growth for manufacturing and nonmanufacturing for the rest of the year, said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.

The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Economic optimism also rose last month, hitting 63.6, compared with 62.5 in August and 60.2 in July.

“Strong profit growth, still low interest rates, and international sales boosted the economic outlook among supply managers in the nine-state region,” Goss said.

The regional new export orders index climbed to 54.3 in September from 52.8 in August, and the import index jumped to 53.8 from August’s 50.0.

“Expanding regional growth spurred purchases of inputs from abroad, while growth among important trading partners pushed export orders higher for the month,” he said.

After falling for two months, the regional wholesale inflation gauge skyrocketed to 79.6, its highest level since April 2011, and up from 65.5 in August.

“Given advancing inflationary readings from our surveys and government surveys over the past several months, I expect the Federal Reserve to raise short-term interest rates one more time before the end of 2017,” Goss said. Just 16 percent of the businesses in the survey such a rate hike to harm their business activity, he said.

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