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Expansion Pace of Mid-Atlantic Manufacturing Activity Steadies in February -- Richmond Fed

02/23/2021 | 10:45am EST

By Xavier Fontdegloria

Manufacturing activity across the central Atlantic region of the U.S. expanded in February at the same pace as the previous month, data from a survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond showed Tuesday.

The Fifth District Survey of Manufacturing Activity's composite index came in at 14 in February, unchanged from January. The reading missed forecasts from economists polled by The Wall Street Journal, who expected the indicator increase slightly to 16.

The indicator is compiled by surveying manufacturing firms across the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which encompasses the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and most of West Virginia. Positive readings signal expansion, while negative readings indicate contraction.

Manufacturing activity in the area has been expanding uninterruptedly since July 2020, but the expansion pace has slowed significantly in recent months from a peak reached in October.

All three components of the index--new orders, shipments and employment--remained in expansion territory in February, but only one of them increased compared with the previous month.

The new orders index fell two points to 10, while the shipments index rose two points to 12, the data showed.

The employment index fell by one point to 22, with survey results indicating that many manufacturers increased employment and wages in the month. However, finding workers with the necessary skills was difficult and respondents expected this difficulty to continue in the next six months, the Richmond Fed said.

Firms also reported decreased inventory levels, as the index for raw materials inventories hit a series low of minus 8.

The average growth rates of both prices paid and prices received by survey participants rose in February, as growth of prices paid continued to outpace that of prices received.

Future indexes signaled that manufacturers were optimistic that conditions would improve in the coming months, the report said.

Write to Xavier Fontdegloria at xavier.fontdegloria@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-23-21 1044ET

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