US manufacturing picks up in January

US manufacturing activity expanded for a second straight month in January as new orders and inventories picked up, the ISM monthly survey showed Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing sector index rose to 53.1 from 50.2 in December.

Until January the index had hovered around the 50 break-even line between growth and contraction for about six months. The overall economy shrank by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to official data, underpinned by little change in the manufacturing sector.

January's rebound included an 8.0 percent surge in the inventories sub-index and a 3.6 percent gain for new orders.

But customer inventories were still contracting, as were manufacturers' order backlogs.

Thirteen of 18 manufacturing industries covered in the ISM survey reported growth in the month, compared with only seven in December.

But manufacturers polled in the survey suggested they remained worried about the tentative direction of the economy.

"Slowing interest in high-dollar purchases reflects continuing economic uncertainty," said one.

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