) -- Factory conditions in and around the Philadelphia region picked up this month, expanding at a slightly faster-than-expected rate as a surge in new orders hinted demand for manufactured goods is improving.
Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank
said its index gauging manufacturing conditions read 17.6 in February. That marks a rise from 15.2 in January and tops a consensus forecast anticipating a reading of 17, according to figures provided by
The index, which held positive for a sixth-straight month, is also well-above year-ago levels when the gauge slumped at -36.1.
The index results are culled from a survey of manufacturers in the region. According to the report, several specific readings in the manufacturing realm also showed improvement, including shipments, inventories, and prices received. But the report was quick to highlight a reading on new orders, which surged in February to register 22.7 after hitting a mere 3.2 in January.
The improving picture in Philly also echoed an earlier reading about
manufacturing in the New York region, where the New York Federal Reserve Bank's general business conditions index rose 9 points to register 24.9 in February.
Stocks pushed into positive territory after the report's release. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was adding 22 points, or 0.2%, at 10,331. A group of big manufacturing names were also holding on to gains and helping guide the blue-chip average higher, with
adding 1.3%, 0.6%, 0.9% and 0.8%, respectively.
-- Written by Sung Moss in New York