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U.S. factories expand for fifth straight month in July

WASHINGTON -- American factories expanded for a fifth straight month in July, another sign that U.S. manufacturers are recovering from damage caused by a strong dollar, a private survey says.

The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index last month read 52.6. That's down from 53.2 in June, but anything higher than 50 signals growth.

Production grew faster. New orders grew at a slightly slower pace. Employment contracted in July after having risen modestly in June. It also fell in May and April.

U.S. factories have recovered after being pounded by economic weakness overseas and a strong dollar, which made their goods costlier in foreign markets. The ISM index stayed below 50 from October through February before turning positive in March.

The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers.