Compiled By Deborah Austin After a flat September, the APICS Business Outlook Index climbed to 53.5 in October -- the highest since February. The index, released monthly by APICS -- The Educational Society for Resource Management, estimates current and future manufacturing activity. An overall index below 50 signifies lower-than-average growth; September's index was 49.3. October's rebound was centered in shipments -- which rose an estimated 0.8% -- coupled with a slight decline in manufacturing inventory stocks, which fell 0.2% after rising 0.2% in September. Unfilled orders rose 1.2% and durable goods new orders, 0.8%. The desired/actual inventory/sales ratio jumped to 60.3 from September's 38.3, averting the potential danger sign of unanticipated inventory stock increases; here, an index below 50 means inventories are higher than wanted.