Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 15:54 UK

US manufacturing growth at fastest in six years

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The US manufacturing sector expanded in March at its fastest rate for six years, a report has said.

The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM's) purchasing managers index rose to 59.6 points last month, up from 56.5 in February.

A figure of 50 or above represents growth, and March was the eighth month in succession that US manufacturers have increased their output.

It comes after China and European nations also saw higher factory output.

UK manufacturing activity grew at its fastest for 15 years in March, according to a survey by Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

Elsewhere, growth in Germany's manufacturing sector last month was the strongest for almost 10 years, while France's expansion was the best since November 2006.

Improving economy

The ISM's latest monthly figure for the US was better than market expectations of 57, and comes as the wider economy is continuing to recover from recession.

The institute said growth was strongest among clothing manufacturers.

Recent official US economic data showed that consumer spending rose in February, but at its slowest rate since September last year.

Meanwhile, the overall economy grew at an annualised rate of 5.6% in the fourth quarter of 2009, the Commerce Department said last week, slower than the previous estimate of 5.9%.

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