US factory activity hits high

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing activity expanded in December at the strongest pace of 2016, as new orders and production jumped in a positive sign for economic growth.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday its manufacturing index came in at 54.7 last month, up from 53.2 in November and the highest reading of 2016. Any reading over 50 signals growth.

U.S. factories are steadily rebounding from a rough patch hit in late 2015 and early 2016. A previous decline in energy prices caused cutbacks in orders for equipment and pipelines, while a stronger dollar and slower economic growth abroad hurt exports.

The ISM manufacturing index has topped 50 for nine of the last 10 months.

New orders registered a reading of 60.2 and production improved to 60.3, evidence of greater demand for factory goods. The employment reading was a weaker but still expanding 53.1.