Manufacturing growth slows sharply in January

The pace of manufacturing activity slowed sharply in January but managed to remain above levels signaling expansion.

An index of manufacturing fell to 51.3 in January from 56.5 in December, due mostly to slow-downs in production and new orders, The Institute for Supply Management said Monday. 

The figure is the lowest since May as factories slow down at the start of the year.

Any reading above 50 means the sector is growing. 

New orders reflected the steepest decline, falling to 51.3 from 64.4, while production dropped to 54.8 from 61.7. 

Hiring was down, too, dropping to 52.3 from 55.8, the report showed. 

Overall, the nation's economy grew at a robust 3.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter, boosted by a three-year high in consumer spending.

The figure bodes well for stronger growth this year with firms expected to hire at a faster rate.

Consumer spending, which represents 70 percent of economic activity, hit 3.3 percent from October to December, the highest level since the final quarter of 2010.