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US manufacturing contracts for second

A gauge of US factory activity declined for a second consecutive month but the result was better than economists had forecast, raising hopes that manufacturers are proving more resistant to a domestic economic slowdown.

Meanwhile, new data on US construction spending also came in much better than expected, contributing to gains for US equities and a rally on the dollar.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index edged higher to 48.6 in March, an improvement on February’s five-year low of 48.3 but still well below 50, the inflection point between growth and contraction. ISM said the data were not yet indicative of a recession in the broader economy.

Economists had expected the factory index to drop to 47.5 in spite of a slew of recent regional reports which have also shown signs of improvement.

On Monday an index of mid-western business activity posted a slight increase over the previous month, although it remained in overall contraction. Factory activity as measured by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve bank last month was also

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