US Factories Expand Again in March but at Slower Pace

Economic Indicators Associated Press

A worker assembles a Boeing's 737 MAX airplane wing at the company's production facility Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Renton, Wash. Boeing plans to deliver its first 737 MAX airplane by May. Boeing's latest innovations inside its Renton factory includes ... new robotic machines as well as more efficient ways of deploying its mechanics. The company is also increasing its 737 production rate to 47 per month, from 42. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

American factories expanded for the seventh straight month in March but at a slightly slower pace than they did in February.

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The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index slipped to 57.2 last month from 57.7 in February. But anything above 50 signals growth, and the March reading was slightly better than economists expected.

New orders and production grew more slowly last month, but hiring and new export orders grew faster.

Seventeen of 18 manufacturing industries grew in March, led by makers of electrical equipment and appliances.

American factories have bounced back after being hurt in early 2016 and late 2015 by cutbacks in the energy industry, a reaction to low oil prices and a strong dollar, which makes U.S. products costlier in foreign markets.

By PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer

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