Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region contracted in August, according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, as the manufacturing index improved to negative 9 in August from negative 17 in July.

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

Shipments climbed to positive 1 from negative 23, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders grew to negative 20 from negative 25, while the backlog of orders index inched up to negative 25 from negative 27.

The capacity utilization index improved to negative 9 from negative 16, while the vendor lead time index gained to negative 4 from negative 5. The number of employees index decreased to negative 5 from positive 1, while the average workweek index was at negative 11 after a negative 7 reading last month, and the wages index slipped to 3 from 9.

As for future outlook (six months from now), the shipments index was 17, up from 16 last month, while the volume of new orders index grew to 17 from 16, and backlog of orders climbed to 6 from zero. Capacity utilization gained to 21 from 6, the vendor lead time index rose to 5 from 3, the number of employees index increased to 8 from 6, while the average workweek index was at 10, up from 2 the previous month, and the wages index was 20, unchanged from last month. The capital expenditures index was 10, after 20 last month.

The finished goods inventories index slid to 18 from 21, while the raw materials index grew to 24 from 23 the previous month.

The current trend in prices paid slid to 1.32 in July from 1.33 in July, while holding at 0.51 for prices received. The expected trend for the next six months grew to 2.78 from 2.42 for prices paid, and rose to 2.04 from 1.82 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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