U.S. Business Activity Gains at Start of Year

The U.S. economy picked up momentum at the start of the year, while Europe showed a growing risk of a second recession amid tougher restrictions to contain coronavirus infections, surveys of purchasing managers showed.

Factories and service-industry companies indicated a pickup in U.S. business activity early this month, the forecasting firm IHS Markit said Friday. An index of manufacturing activity increased to 59.1, the highest level in more than a decade, while a measure of service-sector activity reached 57.5.

A figure above 50 indicates the sector is expanding, based on factors such as product sales, hiring and output. A figure below 50 indicates contraction.

Rapid growth in new recorded coronavirus cases over the winter led to tougher restrictions on activity in parts of the U.S. and Europe, restraining the global economic recovery after the sharp downturn last spring.

Part of the difference between the U.S. and European performance in January might be the result of more severe lockdowns that were imposed in Europe this month compared with the U.S., said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

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