Manufacturing grew for 19th straight month in FebruaryManufacturing activity in the U.S. increased for the 19th consecutive month in February, with the overall economy growing for the 21st straight month, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Issued Tuesday, the ISM's February Report on Business showed that manufacturing activity in the U.S. grew at its fastest rate since May 2004. The ISM's composite index, which measures new order and production, registered 61.4 for the month, indicating strong growth in the sector; in January, the index hit 60.8. Moreover, new orders for goods increased at a much faster clip than inventories, which is a positive sign for future growth.The ISM's Employment Index also registered above 60 for only the third time in the past 10 years.

However, industries related to housing continue to struggle as new home sales in the U.S. have fallen; rising commodity prices are also putting a squeeze on home builders. The ISM Price Index registered 82 percent in February, 0.5 percentage point higher than the 81.5 percent in January and the highest reading since July 2008.

Of the 18 industries surveyed by the ISM, 14 reported growth in February. An executive from the plastics and rubber products industry, which suffered a decline in manufacturing in the month, said that higher prices are weighing on business. "Overall demand is off 10 percent," the executive said.
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