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The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturing fell to 50.1 in February, down from 50.9 in January. In this survey anything above 50 signals an expansion.

The report was good news of a sort since U.S. manufacturing in February didn’t show anything like the huge drop in China’s manufacturing PMI to 35.7 in February. (The index had been at 50 in January.) The reading in China was the lowest on record fro the manufacturing index.

The question now is whether the relatively small drop in the U.S. index is a measure of how relatively well the U.S. manufacturing sector is holding up or simply an artifact of a lag between China and U.S. activity.

One potential indicator of that answer:  The New Orders Index in the U.S. PMI manufacturing survey fell to 49.8, a decrease of 2.2 points from the January reading of 52 percent.