PITTSBURGH (AP) – U.S. manufacturing activity contracted at a slower-than expected pace in April, according to figures from a private trade group that suggest the economic decline may be moderating. The performance was driven by a rise in new orders.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Friday its manufacturing index rose to 40.1 in April from 36.3 in March. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction. It was the 15th consecutive month of contraction in the manufacturing sector.

Wall Street economists had expected the index to rise to 38 in April, according to survey by Thomson Reuters.

“The decline in the manufacturing sector continues to moderate,” said Norbert J. Ore, chairman of ISM’s manufacturing business survey committee. “While this is a big step forward, there is still a large gap that must be closed before manufacturing begins to grow once again.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.