US manufacturing expands at slowest pace in 6 months in December, as orders, production fall

U.S. factory activity grew at the slowest pace in six months in December, weakened by declines in orders and production.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index fell to 55.5 in December from 58.7 in November. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. November's figure was just below a three-year high reached in October.

December's reading is the lowest since June. But it is also close to the average for all of 2014, a sign factory output remains healthy. Manufacturing was a key source of growth last year.

Despite the slowdown, a measure of employment rose, suggesting factories likely added jobs last month.