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Asian factories perk up, US shows improvement

NEW YORK/BEIJING -- Asia's large economies started to pick up steam last month after a year of slower growth, surveys showed on Thursday, while U.S. manufacturing showed modest improvement.

The jury was out on whether the data signaled sustained improvement in the fragile global economy, although analysts said strength in the United States and China, the world's two biggest economies, was essential to overall economic well-being.

That is particularly so at a time when a debt crisis in the 17-country eurozone has plunged several countries in the region into recession. Reports on major eurozone countries are due on Friday and expected to show continued economic contraction.

But the picture appeared to be brightening elsewhere.

The Institute for Supply Management said the pace of U.S. manufacturing growth picked up slightly in October, with its index rising to a five-month peak of 51.7. But hiring in the sector slowed.

A separate report from data firm Markit showed the slowest pace of growth in 37 months, the result of reduced demand for U.S. goods overseas.

“It looks like manufacturing has stopped deteriorating. It's weak growth but it's growth,” said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial.

More encouraging, payrolls processor ADP said U.S. companies added 158,000 jobs in October, far more than the 135,000 forecast in a Reuters poll. Another report showed consumer confidence at a four-year high.

The data was welcomed by the U.S. stock market, which rose on the second day since it reopened following a massive storm that battered the U.S. Northeast earlier this week.

In Brazil, manufacturing expanded for the first time since March, according to the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index, boosting hopes for economic improvement in the fourth quarter.

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In this Monday, Oct. 15 photo, Vanessa Lagola works at her sowing machine at apparel manufacturer FesslerUSA in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. U.S. manufacturing expanded for the second straight month in October, boosted by growth in new orders and production.

(AP)

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