Philadelphia Area Manufacturing Unexpectedly Expanded

Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly expanded in March, reflecting a pickup in orders and factory employment.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index rose to 2 from minus 12.5 February. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the area covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increased to minus 3.

The data follow a report last week showing expansion at factories in the New York region and more optimism from industry managers. Gains in housing and auto sales at the same time businesses rebuild inventories are leading to increased production, indicating manufacturing is a source of strength for the economy.

Estimates of the 55 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from minus 8 to 8.5.

The Philadelphia Fed’s new orders measure climbed to 0.5 from minus 7.8 in February, while shipments increased to 3.5 from 2.4. The inventory index advanced to zero from minus 10.

An index of employment index increased to 2.7 from 0.9.

The measure of prices paid eased to 8.5 in March from 8.9 the prior month while the index of prices received decreased to minus 0.8 from minus 0.5.

Economists monitor the Fed’s regional surveys for clues about the Institute for Supply Management national figures on manufacturing. The next ISM report is due March 1. Manufacturing makes up about 12 percent of the economy.