NEW YORK – “Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region advanced for the third straight month,” according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “Our broadest indicators of overall activity — shipments, new orders and employment — remained in positive territory, and the rate of increase strengthened considerably from our last report.”

The manufacturing index increased to 20 in February from 12 in January.

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

Shipments rose to 25 from 17, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders grew to 21 from 14, while the backlog of orders index reversed to positive 4 from negative 4.

The capacity utilization index climbed to 12 from 8, while the vendor lead time index jumped to 14 from 3. The number of employees index increased to 13 from 4, while the average workweek index was at 10 after a 4 reading last month, and the wages index slipped to 7 from 10.

As for future outlook (six months from now), the shipments index was 30, off from 36 last month, while the volume of new orders index dipped to 31 from 32, and backlog of orders slipped to 12 from 14. Capacity utilization held at 28, the vendor lead time index slid to 10 from 11, the number of employees index climbed to 32 from 20, while the average workweek index was at 10, up from 7 the previous month, and the wages index was 26, up from 19 last month. The capital expenditures index was 19, after 15 last month.

The finished goods inventories index rose to 12 from 9, while the raw materials index fell to 11 from 18 the previous month.

The current trend in prices paid fell to 2.25 in February from 2.53 in January, while rising to 0.97 from 0.57 for prices received. The expected trend for the next six months plunged to 1.58 from 3.15 for prices paid, and slid to 1.55 from 1.62 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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