msnbc.com news services
updated 4/1/2011 10:17:13 AM ET 2011-04-01T14:17:13

The U.S. manufacturing sector grew at a marginally slower pace in March after accelerating at its fastest rate in nearly seven years the month before, according to an industry report released on Friday.

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The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity dipped to 61.2 last month from 61.4 in February, roughly in line with economists' expectations for a reading of 61.0.

A reading below 50 indicates contraction in the manufacturing sector, while a number above 50 means expansion.

A separate report Friday showed construction spending fell more than expected in February to its lowest level since October 1999, pulled down by weakness in both public and private construction.

The Commerce Department said construction spending fell 1.4 percent to an annual rate of $760.6 billion, underscoring renewed weakness in the housing sector. January's spending was revised to show a larger 1.8 percent drop than the previously reported 0.7 percent decline.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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