- The New York Federal Reserve’s index of manufacturing conditions improved at a lower rate than expected in March, official data showed on Monday.

In a report, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that its general business conditions index increased to 5.61 this month from a reading of 4.48 in February. Analysts had expected the index to rise to 6.0 in March.

On the index, a reading above 0.0 indicates improving conditions, below indicates worsening conditions.

The new orders index climbed three points to 3.1, indicating that orders were slightly higher, and the shipments index inched up to 4.0.

Employment indexes were positive and suggested a small increase in employment levels and hours worked..

Indexes for the six-month outlook were down somewhat from last month’s levels, but continued to convey a fairly strong degree of optimism about future conditions, and the capital spending index rose to its highest level in several months.

The Empire State index is of interest to traders primarily because it is seen as an early forecast of the national Institute for Supply management factory survey.

Following the release of the data, the U.S. dollar trimmed gains against the euro, with EUR/USD shedding 0.09% to trade at 1.3902, compared to 1.3895 ahead of the data.

Meanwhile, the outlook for U.S. equity markets remained higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated a gain of 0.4% at the open, S&P 500 futures pointed to a rise of 0.4% and Nasdaq 100 futures indicated an increase of 0.5%.

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