U.S. manufacturing expands at best pace in 2½ years

WASHINGTON – U.S. factory activity expanded in October at the fastest pace in 2½ years, suggesting that the 16-day partial shutdown of the government had little effect on manufacturers.

Instead, overseas demand and healthy U.S. auto sales appear to be supporting factory output. The housing recovery is also lifting the furniture and wood products industry despite a recent slowing in home sales.

The ISM’s manufacturing index rose to 56.4 from 56.2 in September. A reading above 50 indicates growth.