The nation's manufacturing sector expanded in February, reversing the prior month's contraction, a trade group said Thursday.

The Institute for Supply management, based in Tempe, Ariz., said its manufacturing index registered 52.3 in February, above the January reading of 49.3 and Wall Street's expectation of 50.

A reading above 50 indicates growth for the sector. However, the February manufacturing data may not be enough to assuage concerns about a slowing economy. The Dow industrials fell 88 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,180 in morning trade.

The February number continues an alternating pattern for the manufacturing index. The ISM showed contraction in November, then rebounded in December, only to fall back again in January.