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Summary Box: Manufacturing expands for 18th month

MANUFACTURERS GROWING: Factories reported a sharp increase in orders from the United States and overseas last month, pushing a private group's index of manufacturing activity to its highest level since May 2004. It was the 18th straight month of growth for the sector.

MANUFACTURERS GROWING: Factories reported a sharp increase in orders from the United States and overseas last month, pushing a private group's index of manufacturing activity to its highest level since May 2004. It was the 18th straight month of growth for the sector.

CONSTRUCTION NOT: Separately, construction spending fell 2.5 percent in December, according to a government report. It dropped 10.1 percent in 2010 to its lowest level in a decade.

HIRING OUTLOOK IMPROVES: Manufacturing employs about twice as many people as construction and some economists are optimistic it will add up to 15,000 jobs per month over the next few months.

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