By Harriet Torry


WASHINGTON--The U.S. factory sector contracted in March, as customer demand slid due to the coronavirus, a survey of purchasing managers said.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday its manufacturing index fell to 49.1 in March from 50.1 in February. Readings above 50 indicate activity is expanding across the manufacturing sector, while those below 50 signal contraction.

Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal expected a reading of 44.5 in March.

"Comments from the panel were negative regarding the near-term outlook, with sentiment clearly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and energy market volatility," Tim Fiore, who oversees the ISM survey of factory purchasing and supply managers, said in a statement.

Separately, a survey of the U.S. manufacturing sector released by data firm IHS Markit recorded the sharpest downturns in output and new orders since 2009.

The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit final U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index was 48.5 in March, down from 50.7 in February.

IHS Markit economist Chris Williamson said factories are facing a slide in demand which is resulting in the largest job losses since the global financial crisis.

"Worse is likely to come as consumer spending falls further in coming months as lockdowns intensify and unemployment spikes higher," he said in a statement.


Write to Harriet Torry at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 01, 2020 10:31 ET (14:31 GMT)

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