US manufacturing activity contracted once again in the month of March, but at a slower rate than anticipated, according to the Institute of Supply Management's monthly survey on economic conditions. The index was up for the month, at 48.6, from 48.3 in February. Economists were expecting a decline, at a number closer to 47. The fact the the ISM index is not in a free-fall, as expected, may suggest that the current economic downturn is a mild one.
The index was below 50 for three of the past four months. A reading of sub-50 indicates contraction in the sector.
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