“Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region contracted at a less pronounced rate in January,” according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

“The index of overall activity edged up a bit as growth in new orders turned slightly positive,” the survey said. “Growth in shipments contracted at a somewhat slower pace, while employment contracted at a slightly quicker rate. Other indicators were also mixed. The pace of decreasing backlogs and capacity utilization were on par with December, while vendor delivery times increased. In addition, manufacturers reported slightly slower growth in inventories.”

The manufacturing index improved to negative 2 in January from negative 4 in December.

Shipments narrowed to negative 2 from negative 6, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders increased to positive 1 from negative 4, while the backlog of orders index slipped to negative 13 from negative 12.

The capacity utilization index held at negative 3, while the vendor lead time index grew to positive 5, from negative 2. The number of employees index decreased to negative 5 from negative 2, while the average workweek index was negative 6 after a positive 2 reading last month, and the wages index climbed to positive 6 from negative 2.

As for the future outlook — six months from now — the shipments index was 29, unchanged from 29 last month, while the volume of new orders index dipped to 34 from 35, and backlog of orders slipped to 20 from 21.

Capacity utilization rose to 26 from 25, the vendor lead time index fell to 6 from 11, and the number of employees index rose to 3 from 2.

The average workweek index came in at 14, same as in December, and the wages index was 34, an increase from 29. The capital expenditures index was 20, off from 23 last month.

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