Manufacturing in parts of the United States was picking up steam, data showed on Monday, but jobs were lagging the recovery and consumers remained cautious, economists said.
Business activity in the Midwest and in New York City expanded more than anticipated in November, but analysts worry that the U.S. economic recovery may lose momentum in 2010 after retail data showed consumers tightened their purse strings on the biggest shopping day of the year.
Monday's data is all consistent with a gradual to moderate economic recovery, said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James & Associates in St Petersburg, Florida.
On Wall Street stocks rose on the business activity data, with the Dow up 20 points in early trading. <.N>
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer grew faster than anticipated in November, rising to 56.1, which is above the 50 mark which divides expansion from contraction.
Economists look to the report for clues about trends in the national Institute for Supply Management manufacturing report, due on Tuesday, because there are broad correlations between the two reports.
For graphic see http://link.reuters.com/pap24g
However, the Chicago report showed employment still in the doldrums, Brown cautioned. Consumer finances are still strained and the labor market is weak, he said.
Business activity in New York City expanded in November for the fourth consecutive month, while a gauge of business optimism was at its highest in more than three years, an industry report showed.
The Institute for Supply Management-New York's seasonally adjusted index of current business conditions rose to 62.9 in November from 60.8 in October. The 50 level separates growth from contraction.
Respondents showed some optimism about near term business prospects. ISM-New York's six-month outlook index rose to 74.4 in November, its highest since September 2006, from 68.9 in October.
Yet retail data show that cash-strapped consumers spent significantly less per person at the start of the holiday season even than last year, when Lehman Brothers' cataclysmic collapse had paralyzed the global financial system.
Consumers said they will have spent nearly 8 percent less on average, or about $343 per person, over the weekend that included Thanksgiving, Black Friday and ran through Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation.
(Additional reporting by Emily Flitter, Ros Krasny, Nicole Maestri and Brad Dorfman; Editing by Kenneth Barry)