“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. 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 backlog of orders reversed to positive 4 from negative 4.

The capacity utilization index climbed to 12 from 8. The number of employees index increased to 13 from 4, while the average workweek index hit 10 after a 4 reading last month, and the wages index slipped to 7 from 10.

For the future outlook, the shipments index was 30, off from 36 last month, while the volume of new orders index dipped to 31 from 32, and the backlog of orders slipped to 12 from 14. Capacity utilization held at 28, the number of employees index climbed to 32 from 20, and the average workweek index was at 10, up from 7 in January, and the wages index was 26, up from 19. The capital expenditures index was 19, up from 15.

Meanwhile, service sector activity slowed.

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