A closely watched gauge of U.S. manufacturing activity rose in December, indicating the 29th consecutive month of expansion, and similar indexes showed improvement in China, India, the U.K., Switzerland and Australia.
The Institute of Supply Management said its purchasing managers’ index of U.S. manufacturing activity registered 53.9, up from 52.7 in November. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
ISM’s new orders index, a component of the PMI, rose 0.9 to 57.6, the third consecutive month of growth after three months of contraction. Prices of raw materials contracted for the third consecutive month, with a December reading of 47.5 following November’s 45.
The survey’s inventories index registered 47.1 percent in December, down from 48.3 in November. An inventories index above 42.7 generally indicates expansion.
“Manufacturing is finishing out the year on a positive note, with new orders, production and employment all growing in December at faster rates than in November, and with an optimistic view toward the beginning of 2012,” said Bradley J. Holcomb, chair of ISM’s manufacturing business survey committee.
Strength in U.S. manufacturing comes as the decline in China’s factory output slowed, according to the latest HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index. The HSBC index rose to 48.7 in December from 47.7 in November but remained below the growth threshold of 50.
A sub-index showing new export orders fell for the first time in three months and was approximately 15 percent lower than in November, indicating weaker external demand.
A gauge of U.K. factory output based on a survey by Markit Economics and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply rose to 49.6 from a revised 47.7 in November. Demand for U.K. exports has been affected by the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
In yet another report, Australia’s monthly manufacturing index rose 2.4 points in December to 50.2, its first expansion in six months.