The U.S. manufacturing sector slowed in November, falling to its lowest rate of growth since January while a gauge of new orders also fell for a third straight month, an industry report showed on Thursday.
Financial data firm Markit said its preliminary or "flash" U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to 54.7 from October's final reading of 55.9. Economists polled by Reuters had expected it to rise to 56.4.
A reading above 50 signals expansion in economic activity.
The index was at its lowest level since January, as was the new orders subindex. Output fell from 57.8 in October to 55.6, also at its lowest since January, when severe weather impacted economic activity.
"Export market weakness holds the key to the recent slowdown, with manufacturers reporting the largest drop in export orders for nearly one and a half years," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
"There's some reassurance from manufacturers continuing to boost their payroll numbers at a robust pace, but with backlogs of work showing almost no growth, the rate of job creation looks likely to moderate in coming months unless new order inflows pick up again."
The employment subindex rose to 55.1 from October's level of 54.9.
Markit's "flash" reading is based on replies from about 85 percent of the U.S. manufacturers surveyed.