ISM's diffusion index eased to 57.2 (matching median forecast) from February's 57.7, which was the highest since August 2014. (Readings above 50, of course, indicate growth.) The measure of orders cooled to 64.5 in March from 65.1, with factory employment gauge climbing to 58.9, the strongest reading since June 2011, from 54.2. Prices-paid index increased to 70.5, the highest since May 2011, from 68.
The manufacturing index, which has increased in six of the last seven months, underscores building optimism among factory managers. In the U.S., the ISM measure of export orders climbed to the highest level since November 2013, indicating improving global demand.
Recent Chinese government figures showed a factory purchasing managers index climbed in March to the highest level since April 2012, while a Markit Economics measure of euro-area manufacturing was the strongest in 71 months.
The ISM’s indexes of inventories continued to contract in March, a sign that production gains will hold up after Federal Reserve factory output data showed the strongest back-to-back advances in almost three years. The highest order backlogs and slowest delivery times for suppliers since 2014 help explain why more manufacturers are reporting that they are adding workers to assembly lines.
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