Gains for Mfg., Construction Spending in the U.S. Last Month

The year closed south of the border with robust economic activity in at least two areas.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported Wednesday that U.S. factory activity increased more than expected in December, boosted by a surge in new orders growth, in a further sign of strong economic momentum at the end of 2017.

The economy's strong fundamentals were also underscored by other data on Wednesday showing construction spending rising to a record high in November amid broad gains in both private and public outlays.

ISM said its index of national factory activity jumped to a reading of 59.7 last month from 58.2 in November. A reading above 50 indicates growth in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12% of the U.S. economy.

The survey's production sub-index rose 1.9 points to a reading of 65.8 and a gauge of new orders shot up 5.4 points to 69.4. Manufacturers also reported an increase in export orders. A measure of factory employment, however, fell to 57.0 last month from 59.7 in November.

Manufacturing is likely to get a boost this year from a $1.5-trillion tax cut approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress last month. The overhaul of the tax code, the most sweeping in 30 years, slashed the corporate income tax rate to 21% from 35%.