January 18, 2007 2:00 PM, EST

Philadelphia Factory Index Rises for January

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Manufacturing levels in the Philadelphia area improved this month as orders and sales improved, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said Thursday.The area’s economic index rose to an 8.3 reading, from minus 2.3 in December, which had been the first contraction in a year and a half.Figures greater than zero mean that most businesses report improving conditions. The factory sector is one of trucking’s largest and most important customers. The increase was greater than economists’ forecasts of a 3.1 reading, Bloomberg reported.The Philadelphia Fed surveys about 100 manufacturers for the index in eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey.