Colorado's manufacturing economy rebounding

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The industrial sector is poised to gain strength this spring after suffering from its worst January performance since a survey of its health began three years ago, analysts said.

''The situation has improved considerably,'' said Mike Hayes, co-author of the University of Colorado's Front Range Purchasing Managers' Index. The survey polls executives of Colorado companies to measure the strength of the state's manufacturing economy.

February's index score was 47.8, up sharply from January's 37.4 A score above 50 means manufacturing activity is increasing; one below 50 means it is declining.

February's score showed the manufacturing economy was declining slightly, but not at the rate of January's steep drop.

Analysts had attributed the January performance to a combination of economic weakening and a typical seasonal slowdown. Manufacturers often slow or stop their production during the late December and early January holiday period.

''The February decrease is not too bad, just slightly below the break-even level.Certainly, we're very encouraged compared to where we were in January,'' Hayes said.

The index gauges low-tech and high-tech manufacturing activity at firms along the Front Range from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins. The survey mirrored a monthly index used by the National Association of Purchasing Managers, which showed that the manufacturing sector of the national economy remained weak last month, but the worst of its decline may be over.

''The economy has hit its worst point in the present economic cycle,'' said Wells Fargo Bank chief economist Sung W. Sohn. ''However, the perception is worse than the reality. There is no recession and the light at the end of the tunnel should appear soon.''

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