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Chicago Business Barometer Dips Much Less Than Expected In March

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A report released by MNI Indicators on Tuesday showed a continued contraction in Chicago-area business activity in the month of March.

MNI Indicators said its Chicago business barometer fell to 47.8 in March from 49.0 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in regional business activity.

The Chicago business barometer remained below 50 for the ninth straight month but showed a relatively modest decrease compared to economist estimates for a slump to 40.0.

The modest decrease by the business barometer came as the production index returned to contraction territory after February's rise above the 50-mark and demand for new orders plunged by 7.9 percent.

MNI Indicators said some firms reported a rise in orders due to stockpiling by U.S. customers, while others noted a fall in new business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report showed a modest increase by the employment index, although the reading below 50 still indicates a loss of jobs.

Meanwhile, MNI Indicators said prices at the factory gate hit their highest level since last December, with the index surging up by 7.2 percent.

The Institute for Supply Management is scheduled to release a separate report on national manufacturing activity in the month of March on Wednesday.

The purchasing managers index is expected to drop to 45.0 in March from 50.1 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in manufacturing activity.

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