The U.S. manufacturing sector shrank for the second month in a row in July as new orders improved modestly but employment dropped to a 2-1/2-year low.
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The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity inched up to 49.8 from 49.7 in June, shy of economists' expectations for 50.2.
A reading below 50 shows contraction in the sector. Forward-looking new orders remained in contraction territory but improved to 48 from 47.8. The gauge of employment slid to its lowest level since December 2009 at 52 from 56.6. Exports continued to tumble and were down at 46.5 from 47.5.
The index has lost 13 points since February.