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Factories grow for 17th straight month in December

WASHINGTON — U.S. manufacturers produced more goods and booked more orders last month, a trade group says, leading to the fastest growth in factory activity since May.

The Institute for Supply Management says its index of manufacturing activity rose to 57 in December from 56.6 in the previous month. Any reading over 50 indicates growth.

The index rose to 60.4 in April, the highest level since June 2004. It had bottomed out at 32.5 in December 2008, the lowest since June 1980.

The latest report shows that manufacturers carried considerable momentum into the new year. The new orders index rose sharply to 60.9, also the highest since May. The production index also jumped.