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Midwest economic survey index drops slightly

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic survey index dropped slightly last month but still suggests growth over the next three to six months for nine Midwestern and Plains states, according to a survey report released Monday.

The overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index fell to 57.4 in February from 57.7 in January.

The business confidence portion of the overall index also dropped last month. It hit a still strong 59.7 from January's 62.2.

"As in previous months, modest improvements in regional employment, moderate inflation and less D.C. political turmoil supported supply managers' business outlook for the month," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.

The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The supply managers were asked how the February weather affected their company's business.

"Almost one-third, or 32.4 percent, indicated that recent extreme weather had a negative impact on company sales," Goss said. Only 5.4 percent reported positive effects, with the remaining 62.2 percent indicating little or no impact.

Despite the rugged winter weather, supply managers, especially those in manufacturing, reported healthy business activity for the first two months of 2014, Goss said.

The inventory index, which tracks the level of raw materials and supplies, rose to 59.7 in February from 53.2 in January.

"This is yet another signal that supply managers are more upbeat about the economy as they increased inventories in anticipation of expanding sales for their companies in the months ahead," said Goss.

The index for new export orders climbed hit 55.4 last month, compared with 54.9 in January. The import index was unchanged from 52.4 in January.

"It is a very encouraging signal to track a fourth straight month of healthy new export orders," Goss said. "At the same time, firms in the region continued purchasing from abroad in expectations of upturns in company sales in the weeks and months ahead."

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