Manufacturing on mend, Philly Fed says

Construction at the Aker shipyard, building two 115,000-ton oil tankers for an ExxonMobil affiliate.

Conditions for manufacturers in the Philadelphia region are better this month than in May, and have been improving for four consecutive months, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported Thursday.

The Philly Fed's closely watched "Business Outlook Survey" said responding firms "reported continued increases in overall activity, new orders, shipments, and employment this month."

Seventy-five companies responded to the survey, said Mike Trebing, senior economic analyst at the bank. The Philadelphia Fed, one of 12 regional Fed banks, covers Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware.

The monthly survey always includes questions about the sort of business conditions that manufacturers expect to encounter in the next six months, and the latest measure of future activity "showed a notable improvement, indicating that firms expect continued growth and employment increases over the next six months," the bank said.

The report's main measure, an index of current business activity, rose to 17.8, from May's reading of 15.4. Index readings above zero indicate growth, while numbers below zero reflect economic contraction.

The index has been on the upswing since February, when it stood at minus-6.3, when experts worried that the frigid long winter was cooling business.

Trebing said the main takeaway from the latest report was the continuing month-to-month growth. "All of the broad current indicators were positive and edged up from May," he said in an e-mail.