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Manufacturers Feel Less Confident About 2019 as New-Order Growth Eases

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01/02/2019 | 11:54am EDT

By Micah Maidenberg

An index that gauges manufacturing production declined last month and business confidence looking a year out dropped to its lowest point in more than two years.

IHS Markit's U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 53.8 for December, a 15-month low, down from 55.3 in November.

IHS Markit said new orders eased in December, following a slightly increase in November. The pace of new-order growth was the weakest since September 2017, IHS Market found. New export orders grew at an accelerated pace last month, amid stronger demand from foreign customers.

Output and backlogs rose but the pace of job creation last month hit a level last seen in September 2017.

Business confidence fell to its lowest level since October 2016.

IHS Markit Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson said the weaker pace of economic expansion caused manufacturers to become less upbeat about 2019.

Companies reported difficulties in finding workers and inputs, but the December survey the index is based on also "revealed signs of slower demand growth from customers, as well as rising concerns over the impact of tariffs."

Two-thirds of respondents reporting higher costs attributed the increase to tariffs, he said.

Manufacturing production in the fourth quarter rose at an annualized pace of 1% in the fourth quarter, Mr. Williamson said.

Write to Micah Maidenberg at micah.maidenberg@wsj.com

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