US manufacturing sector slows down in June
WASHINGTON - U.S manufacturing grew in June at its slowest pace in 11 months and the number of Americans filing new applications for jobless benefits fell slightly last week, pointing to an economy mired in a soft patch.
The weakening economic tone was also underscored by other reports on Thursday showing a gauge of factory activity in the Mid-Atlantic region tumbled to a 10-month low in June and a pullback in home resales in May.
The data came one day after the Federal Reserve eased monetary policy further by extending a program to re-weight securities it holds toward longer maturities to hold down borrowing costs and signaled it was ready to do more to help the flagging recovery.
"We've seen a pretty steady diet of lower-than-expected data points, pointing to a continued slowdown, and that has not changed," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago.
Financial information firm Markit said its U.S. "flash" manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to 52.9 in June from 54.0 in May. The June reading was the lowest since last July although it stayed above 50, indicating an expansion in activity.
For the second straight month, weaker demand from Europe and large emerging markets such as China dented sales. Markit said U.S. manufacturers reported the second largest decline in new export orders since September 2009.
In a separate report, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 387,000.
However, the four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, increased 3,500 to 386,250 - the highest level since early December.
The claims data covered the survey week for June's nonfarm payrolls and the report pointed to little or no improvement on the paltry 69,000 jobs added in May. Claims rose 15,000 between the May and June survey periods.
"This confirms the weak labor market we have. I suspect we would see a modest rebound in payrolls in June but it would still be below 150,000. It's going to be another month of sub-par jobs data," said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The run of poor data was extended further, with the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank reporting that factory activity in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware contracted for second month in June as orders and shipments sank.
Manufacturing has been one of the strongest links in an otherwise frail U.S. economic recovery, but weaker overseas demand, especially in Europe where a debt crisis has resulted in tough austerity measures by governments, may be starting to take its toll. — Reuters
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