The overall economy grew for the eighth straight time after seven months of contraction, while the manufacturing sector expanded for the fifth time after 18 months of contraction, the Institute for Supply Management reported yesterday.

According to the ISM’s monthly report on business, the ISM index rose to 55.9 in December from 53.6 in November.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the index would rise to 54.3.

“The manufacturing sector grew for the fifth consecutive month as the [purchasing managers index] rose to 55.9%, its highest reading since April 2006 when it registered 56%,” said Norbert J. Ore, chairman  of the Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing business survey committee.

“This month’s report is quite strong as both the new orders and production indexes are above 60%,” he said. “The sector may be benefiting from an excessive de-stocking cycle.”

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