Construction Spending Sets Records in September, Manufacturing Expands in October

Wed November 05, 2003 - National Edition

NEW YORK (AP) The nation’s manufacturers registered their highest level of activity in nearly four years in October, according to a report released Nov. 3 that suggests the economy continues to grow at a robust rate.

In addition, the Commerce Department said construction spending in September posted its best month on record, and spending by private builders also hit a new high.

The positive manufacturing numbers suggest that the economy will show sound growth in the current quarter after expanding 7.2 percent in the third –– the fastest pace in nearly two decades, said Mark Vitner, senior economist of Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, NC.

"This is the first hard evidence we have on the fourth quarter, and it suggests that a lot of the strength of the third quarter is carrying over," Vitner said.

The Institute for Supply Management reported that its manufacturing index rose to 57 in October from 53.7 in September.

It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain and pushed the index to its highest level since January 2000, when it last registered 57. Analysts had expected only 55.5 for October.

An index reading above 50 indicates expansion; one below 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is contracting. From March through June, the index was below 50.