Construction spending takes a dive

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON _Construction spending took its biggest nosedive in 14 years and manufacturing activity contracted, fresh trouble signs for a struggling economy.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that construction spending plunged by 1.7 percent in January. Builders slashed spending on residential projects, but the weakness spread beyond that ailing sector. There were cutbacks in spending on, among other things, hotels and motels, highways and various projects by state and local governments.

Another report showed fallout from housing and credit problems cutting deeper into manufacturing.

The Institute for Supply Management ‘s manufacturing index clocked in at 48.3 in February. That was the weakest reading in nearly five years. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. Anything below that shows contraction. Still, the reading was a bit better than the 48.1 that economists were forecasting.