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Local factories grow for sixth straight month in February

Buffalo Niagara manufacturers are on a steady growth spurt.

With production rising, hiring on the upswing and new orders steadily flowing in, business at the region's manufacturers improved for the sixth straight month during February, a new survey of local purchasing managers found.

The February gain was further evidence of a turnaround at local manufacturers, reversing a seven-month slide that began in February and stretched through August. The improvement extended the growth streak by local manufacturers to a sixth consecutive month and coincided with a rebound in the statewide Empire State Manufacturing Survey, which hit a two-year high last month.

"It was a favorable month," said Jay K. Walker, the Niagara University economist who tracks local manufacturing activity for the Institute of Supply Management – Buffalo.  "So far with 2017 there’s not much to complain about, excepting the commodity price indices being pretty strong."

The purchasing managers report is one of the most timely economic indicators, offering a glimpse at how the manufacturing sector performed during the previous month, but the local index also can be quite volatile month to month. February's report, while still showing growth, showed a much slower pace of expansion than the unusually strong spike in growth noted in the January report.

The survey of local purchasing managers showed that its business activity index remained solidly in growth territory, even as it cooled to 58.4 in February from the 14-month high of 69.9 it set in January.  Any time the index drops below 50, it’s a sign that the manufacturing economy is weakening. It's a sign of growth when it tops 50.

The February improvement was broad-based, with production rising sharply for the fourth straight month and both the pace of hiring and the flow of new orders increasing for the sixth consecutive month. Inventories grew for the first time in five months.

The one sobering note in the report was a continued rise in commodity prices.

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