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Mid-Atlantic manufacturing picks up

U.S. manufacturing activity stabilized somewhat in the mid-Atlantic states during September, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported, offering some hope that the summer doldrums that hit the sector may be at an end.

The Fed bank said its business conditions index moved back into positive territory last month, rising to a level of 2.3, following a -3.1 reading in August.

The September number was better than analysts had expected and easily beat their forecast that the index would bounce back to a level of 1.4. But the modest bounce in September still wasn't enough to offset weakness during July and August.

The regional bank's reports for July and August showed that factory activity hit the wall during the summer months, posing questions about the extent of the recovery in the big manufacturing sector.

And even though the Fed bank said that manufacturing activity had improved somewhat, overall conditions in the region remain sluggish. "Although most current indicators recovered from negative readings in August, their levels suggest manufacturing is growing only slightly," the Fed bank reported.

The September improvement was supported by a recovery in new orders, which climbed to an index reading of 5.6, recovering from -2.7 in August. Inflation pressures eased, with the prices paid index falling to a level of 19.6 from 23.9 the month before.

The Philadelphia Fed serves Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey and is the first of the Fed's 12 regional banks to report each month on manufacturing activity.

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