Manufacturing Hits August 2006 High

Manufacturing expanded in January for the fourth consecutive month, reaching the highest level since August 2006 as new orders rose, a gauge of industrial production showed Friday.

VTB Bank Europe's Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 55.3 in January from 54.3 in the previous month, the bank said Friday. A figure above 50 indicates growth, below 50, a contraction. The bank surveyed 300 purchasing executives among Russian manufacturers.

The result "reinforces a trend formed over the fourth quarter of 2007," said VTB economist Dmitry Fedotkin. "Underpinning the rise in the headline index was a strengthening in both domestic and export orders, coupled with comparatively high employment growth."

Imports grew faster -- 47 percent from January through November as the trade surplus narrowed 9.5 percent in the period -- than in 2006 as rising incomes and investment fueled demand for manufactured goods, according to Federal Customs Service data.