Number of Americans filing for jobless claims surged last week
FACTORY activity in the US Mid-Atlantic region in July contracted for a third straight month and the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid surged last week, heightening worries about the economy's health.
The economic picture was further darkened by other reports on Thursday showing home resales fell to their lowest level in eight months in June and a gauge of future economic activity fell last month.
"These reports affirm the narrative of slowing economic growth momentum," said Millan Mulraine, senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.
"While we believe that economic conditions have not deteriorated sufficiently to push the Federal Reserve over the edge, the odds of further policy action being taken in the near-term have clearly risen."
The economy has been hit by fears of deep government spending cuts and higher taxes next year, and troubles from the debt crisis in Europe, culminating in slower job growth, weak consumer spending and manufacturing output.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve said its business activity index was minus 12.9 from minus 16.6 in June.
A reading below zero indicates contraction in the region's manufacturing.
"There is underlying softness in manufacturing. It probably understates the broader activity throughout the nation, but it still goes to show you that the weak trends are persisting," said Sean Incremona an economist at 4CAST in New York.
A second report from the Labour Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits rebounded 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. A seasonal quirk caused claims to drop 24,000 in the prior week.
The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labour market trends, fell 1,500 to 375,500 - staying in the middle of the range it has held for much of 2012.
There was also disappointing news from the housing sector, which has been the bright spot in the economy.
Home resales dropped 5.4pc to an annual rate of 4.37 million units last month, the National Association of Realtorssaid in a third report.
However, the median sales price rose from last year and there were fewer sales of distressed properties.