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Philadelphia Manufacturing Activity Rebounds After Unexpected Contraction

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After reporting an unexpected contraction in regional manufacturing activity in the previous month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released a report on Thursday showing its index of manufacturing activity rebounded by much more than anticipated in March.

The Philly Fed said its index for current manufacturing activity in the region jumped to a positive 13.7 in March from a negative 4.1 in February, with a positive reading indicating growth. Economists had expected the index to rise to a positive 4.5.

The bigger than expected rebound by the headline index came as the indicators for new orders and shipments returned to positive territory.

The new orders index rose to a positive 1.9 in March from a negative 2.4 in February, while the shipments index spiked to a positive 20.0 form a negative 5.3.

Meanwhile, the report said the number of employees index fell to 9.6 in March from 14.5 in February, although a positive reading still indicates job growth.

The prices paid index also dipped to 19.7 in March from 21.8 in February, while the prices received index slid to 24.7 from 27.7.

Looking ahead, the Fed said most of the survey's indexes for future conditions continued to moderate, but the firms remained generally optimistic about growth over the next six months.

The diffusion index for future general activity tumbled to 21.8 in March from 31.3 in February, hitting its lowest level since February of 2016.

Last Friday, the New York Fed released a separate report showing growth in regional manufacturing activity unexpectedly slowed in the month of March.

The New York Fed said its headline general business conditions index fell to 3.7 in March after climbing to 8.8 in February.

While a positive reading still indicates growth in regional manufacturing activity, economists had expected the index to rise to 10.0.

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