Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region "advanced for the second straight month" in December, according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, as the manufacturing index dipped to 5 from 9 in November.

Index readings above zero show expansion, while numbers below zero indicate contraction.

Shipments slipped to 6 from 11, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders slid to 9 from 11, while the backlog of orders index widened to negative 11 from negative 9.

The capacity utilization index reversed to positive 3 from negative 3, while the vendor lead time index crept to 3 from zero. The number of employees index fell to negative 3 from positive 3, while the average workweek index was at negative 2 after a positive 2 reading last month, and the wages index remained at 10.

As for future outlook (six months from now), the shipments index was 20, down from 28 last month, while the volume of new orders index fell to 12 from 25, and backlog of orders slumped to zero from 19. Capacity utilization dropped to 4 from 12, the vendor lead time index decreased to negative 3 from positive 10, the number of employees index gained to 2 from zero while the average workweek index was at negative 5, off from positive 6 the previous month, and the wages index was 21, down from 28 last month. The capital expenditures index was 9 after 4 last month.

The finished goods inventories index fell to 19 from 12, while the raw materials index grew to 24 from 21 the previous month.

The current trend in prices paid rose to 2.01 in December from 1.99 in November, while dipping to 1.57 from 1.72 for prices received. The expected trend for the next six months jumped to 2.54 from 1.95 for prices paid, and slid to 0.87 from 1.29 for prices received.

All firms surveyed are located within the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and most of West Virginia.

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