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US upper Midwest factory activity grows in March

[MILWAUKEE] A measure of factory activity in the US upper Midwest region increased for a third month in March, led by improvement in new orders, production and employment among local businesses, a private survey released on Thursday showed.

Marquette University and the Institute for Supply Management-Milwaukee said their index on manufacturing in the Milwaukee region rose to 57.78 from 55.22 in February.

A reading above 50 indicates regional manufacturing activity is expanding.

This index on upper Midwest factory activity has risen steadily since September, climbing out of contraction territory for much of 2015 even as a strong dollar and weak global demand hurt regional manufacturers.

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The survey's new orders measure rose to 66.20 from 53.47, while its production gauge jumped to 68.81 from 52.59. The employment reading increased to 68.32 from 62.56.

"Some companies are getting so many orders right now and their backlog is as large as it has been since 2007," the survey said.

The survey's six-month outlook on business conditions, however, slipped to 66.7 from 70.8 in February.

"Companies are expecting there to be a near term drop in orders in some segments and push outs in others. However, there is no clear market direction," the survey said.