- Manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia-region expanded at a faster rate than expected in March, easing concerns over the U.S. economic outlook, official data showed on Thursday.

In a report, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that its manufacturing index improved to a reading of 9.0 this month from February’s reading of minus 6.3. Analysts had expected the index to rise to 3.8 in March.

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

The survey’s broadest indicators for general activity, new orders, and shipments increased and recorded positive readings this month, suggesting a return to growth following weather-related weakness in February.

Firms’ employment levels were reported near steady, but responses reflected optimism about adding to payrolls over the next six months.

The survey''s indicators of future activity reflected optimism about continued growth over the next six months.

Following the release of the data, the U.S. dollar added to gains against the euro, with EUR/USD shedding 0.58% to trade at 1.3752, compared to 1.3764 ahead of the data.

Meanwhile, U.S. stock markets were down after the open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.25%, the S&P 500 dipped 0.25%, while the Nasdaq 100 declined 0.25%.

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