updated 6/1/2004 12:32:38 PM ET 2004-06-01T16:32:38

Construction spending registered its best month on record in April and manufacturing activity expanded in May, fresh evidence of the economy's momentum as it headed into summer.

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The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the value of buildings put in place rose by 1.3 percent in April from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $970.4 billion, the highest level on record.

In a second report, the Institute for Supply Management said its index of manufacturing activity rose to 62.8 in May, up from 62.4 in April.

The latest snapshot of manufacturing was better than economists were expecting. They were forecasting a reading of 61.5 in May. It marked the 12th straight month that manufacturing expanded.

Any index reading above 50 indicates expansion, while one below 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is contracting.

Norbert J. Ore, who heads the group's survey committee, said the manufacturing sector "grew at a faster rate in May, continuing its recent strong performance."

In the construction report, the 1.3 percent advance in April was more than three times the 0.4 percent gain that economists were predicting.

The strong showing comes on top of a red-hot March, when spending jumped by 2.4 percent — better than previously reported. That increased had pushed the value of all construction projects in March to $957.6 billion, which had been the previous all-time high.

The strength in April was broad-based, with spending on residential buildings by private companies and spending on public works projects by state and local government each posting their best months on record.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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