NEW YORK, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A general index of U.S. manufacturing activity slid January to February, but showed resilience in component indexes, a research firm said Thursday.
Markit Economics said the manufacturing sector's Purchasing Managers Index for the month in a flash estimate slipped from 55.8 in January to 55.2.
A flash estimate is based on 85 percent of the pertinent data being available. As such, the figure is subject to a revision.
While the general index slid from January's nine-month peak, a few component indexes remained strong, Markit said.
The production index, also known as the output index, posted the strongest rise since March 2011, climbing from 56.8 to 58.1. Stocks of finished goods also rose at a faster rate, the index rising from 50.4 to 51.2.
The indexes use 50 as a break-even point. Numbers above 50 indicate growth. Below 50, the numbers indicate contraction.
New export orders slipped from 51.5 in January to 48.7, falling into contraction, a likely development considering the ongoing recession in Europe, a critical trading partner.
The employment index remained positive, although growth slowed as the index dropped from 55.6 to 54.1.
"U.S. manufacturers reported the largest monthly rise in production for almost two years in February, suggesting that the economy is set to rebound from the weak patch seen late last year and allaying fears of a double-dip recession," said Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson.
"The domestic market," he said, "is providing the main stimulus to growth, but weak demand in other countries caused export orders to fall slightly for the first time since October," he said.