"Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region expanded at a quicker pace in December," the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said.

"All broad indicators — shipments, new orders and employment — posted solid gains," it said. "Other indicators also suggested stronger activity. District contacts reported that order backlogs returned to positive territory and capacity utilization grew at a faster pace. Manufacturers reported that delivery times grew at a somewhat higher rate, while inventories grew at a somewhat slower pace."

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