U.S. factory activity surges to 13-year high

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U.S. factory activity rose to the highest level in 13 years last month as hurricanes disrupted supplies but drove up demand for manufactured goods.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its manufacturing index rose to 60.8 in September, up from 58.8 in August, the highest reading since May 2004. Anything above 50 signals that manufacturers are growing, and the ISM survey shows they've been on a 13-month winning streak.

New orders, production, hiring and new export orders all grew faster in September.

Seventeen of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth, led by textile mills and machinery. Only one industry—furniture manufacturing—contracted last month.

Factories are benefiting from a strengthening global economy and a drop this year in the value of the U.S. dollar against other major currencies. A weaker dollar makes U.S. products less expensive in foreign markets.

Some industries reported that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had disrupted supplies and driven up costs.

Tim Fiore, chair of the ISM's manufacturing survey committee, said the scramble for supplies for rebuilding in the aftermath of the hurricanes may have driven manufacturing activity higher in September. Factories, he said, "are really struggling to meet demand."

The overall U.S. economy expanded at a 3.1 percent annual pace from April through June, the fastest rate in more than two years. Unemployment, at 4.4 percent, is near a 16-year low.

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