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Manufacturing activity expands robustly in April

NEW YORK _ The manufacturing sector expanded smartly in April, with strength in production and employment boosting a closely watched index above analysts' expectations.

The Institute for Supply Management, a business-backed research group based in Tempe, Ariz., said Monday that its manufacturing index rose to 57.3 in April from 55.2 in March. Wall Street analysts had expected the index to be down slightly at 55.0.

The growth indicated that the U.S. economy, which expanded at a 4.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter, may be continuing strong growth in the second period.

Norbert J. Ore, chair of ISM's survey committee, said in a statement accompanying the report that ``production and employment showed significant strength'' in April, leading to some inventory growth in anticipation of future production needs.

He added, however, that manufacturers ``still have major concerns about the impact of higher prices for energy and industrial commodities.''
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