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US Manufacturing Growth Slows; Construction Spending Falls

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The pace of U.S. manufacturing growth slowed in April as the sector expanded only modestly, an industry report showed on Wednesday. A separate report showed that construction spending fell in March.

(Click here to track the U.S. stock market following the reports.)

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity fell to 50.7 from 51.3 in March, coming in below expectations for 50.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

In a sign of potential resiliency, the forward-looking new orders component edged up to 52.3 from 51.4, while production improved to 53.5 from 52.2.

But employment fell to 50.2 from 54.2, boding poorly for the Labor Department's national unemployment report due on Friday.

Economic growth re-accelerated in the first quarter of the year, but recent data has suggested it slowed again in the spring months, a pattern seen in recent years that has become known as a "spring swoon".

A separate report showed that spending on U.S. construction projects fell in March as the biggest drop in government projects in more than a decade overwhelmed strength in home building.

The Commerce Department says construction spending fell 1.7 percent in March, compared with February. It marked the second decline in the past three months. January activity plunged a record 4 percent, which represented a downward revision from a previous estimate of a 2.1 percent decline.

Even with the recent weakness, construction activity was 4.8 percent higher in March than a year ago at a seasonally adjusted $856.7 billion.

For March, private residential construction rose 0.4 percent, the only major sector showing a gain. Government construction activity fell 4.1 percent, the biggest drop since March 2002, while private nonresidential building was down 1.5 percent.