WASHINGTON – U.S. factories expanded last month at a weaker pace, with orders growing more slowly and hiring essentially flat.
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The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index slipped to 51.5 in March from 52.9 in February.
It was the fifth straight drop. Still, any reading above 50 signals expansion.
U.S. manufacturers have faced a drag in recent months from falling oil prices and a rising dollar.
Some drilling rigs have stopped as oil prices have fallen more than 50 percent since June to below $50 a barrel, curbing demand for pipelines and machinery from factories. Simultaneously, the dollar has risen in value against the euro and other currencies, making American-made goods more expensive abroad and cutting into exports.