The flash reading of the Markit manufacturing purchasing managers index unexpectedly rose in March to 55.3 from 55.1 in February, to mark the highest reading since October. Economists had been looking for a small decrease. New orders also increased in March at the fastest pace in five months despite slower export sales. The flash estimate is typically based on approximately 85%-90% of total PMI survey responses each month, and any reading above 50 indicates improving conditions. The rate of growth remains well down from last year's peaks. Although U.S. gross domestic product looks likely to decelerate in the first quarter, "the upturn in order books... gives some reassurance that the pace of economic growth is likely to pick up as we move towards the summer," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
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