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Washington (AFP) — U.S. manufacturing activity gained pace in March helped by a pickup in new orders and a rebound in production, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday.

The ISM’s purchasing managers index rose to 53.7 from 53.2 the previous month. A reading above 50 denotes expansion.

The new orders component rose to 55.1 and production turned around from contraction in February — that was partly the result of extreme harsh winter weather — to a solid expansion pace of 55.9.

But hiring slowed and customer inventories contracted during the month.

Comments from businesses surveyed “reflect favorable demand and good business conditions,” ISM said, with some respondents still noting impact from the unusually harsh winter weather across much of the country.

“Weather has created major delays on inbound materials and outbound sales. We need spring,” said one survey respondent from the food and beverage industry.

©afp.com / Odd Andersen

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