The U.S. manufacturing sector faltered last month, surprising economists.
In November, the Institute for Supply Management’s U.S. factory index fell to 49.5, down from 51.7 in October. Economists had expected the index to dip to 51.4, Bloomberg noted.
A reading below 50 indicates that the manufacturing sector is contracting.
November marked the fourth month out of the previous six months during which the index showed declining manufacturing activity.
The ISM new order index fell to 50.3 last month, down from 54.2 in October, hitting a three-month low.
Economists cited growing uncertainty over the U.S. fiscal cliff as a reason why companies are pulling back on investments and purchases, but noted that a growing housing market could offset manufacturing’s problems.
Hurricane Sandy, which slammed coastal areas of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, had little impact on the ISM, economists noted.