Manufacturing in U.S. expanded more than forecast in January

U.K. Manufacturing

Elsewhere, U.K. manufacturing expanded in January for a second month. A gauge of factory activity eased to 50.8 from a revised 51.2 in December, Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply said in London today.

In the euro-area, manufacturing continued to shrink. Markit’s gauge rose to 47.9 last month from 46.1 in December.

Chinese manufacturing expanded in January, validating the nation’s reluctance to add to policy stimulus amid increasing inflation concern.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index was 50.4 in January compared with 50.6 in December, the National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said today in Beijing as they more than tripled the number of companies surveyed. A separate gauge from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics covering fewer businesses rose to a two-year high of 52.3 from 51.5.

Business Investment

Earlier this week, a Commerce Department report showed business investment in equipment and software climbed at a 12.4 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the best performance in more than a year, after a drop the prior quarter.

Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, is among manufacturers expecting an improving outlook.

“In the United States, we’re becoming increasingly optimistic,” Michael DeWalt, a spokesman for Peoria, Illinois- based Caterpillar, said on a Jan 28 conference call with analysts. “We expect U.S. housing industry to help the economy in 2013.”

An improving housing market is also helping manufacturers such as DuPont Co., the biggest U.S. chemical maker by market value. Rising demand for plastics used in autos helped the Wilmington, Delaware-based company to report fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts’ estimates. DuPont also said sales in 2013 will climb to $36 billion from $34.8 billion.

“The U.S. is experiencing a weak recovery with bright spots and pent-up demand for housing and autos,” Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman said on a Jan. 22 earnings call.

Consumer Spending

Consumer purchases grew at a 2.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter, up from 1.6 percent in the previous three months, as Americans bought more durable goods including automobiles. A plunge in defense outlays and slower stockpiling led the economy to contract at a 0.1 percent annual pace in the final three months of 2012.

Automobile purchases also may support factory production this year. November-December was the best back-to-back showing for car- and light-truck sales since early 2008, according to Ward’s Automotive Group.

Bloomberg News

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