March was another step toward recovery for economic activity in the manufacturing sector, says the National Assn. of Purchasing Management (NAPM). This followed a February rebound after eight straight months of decline. "Production and new orders once again made solid gains," says Norbert Ore, chair of the NAPM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "But the commodities sectors are lagging in their recovery. . . .With many industries mired in excess capacity, it may be some months before this situation is reversed." NAPM's Purchasing Managers' Index for March was 54.3%, up from 52.4% in February and the highest since November 1997. A PMI reading above 50% shows manufacturing is "generally expanding," says NAPM; below 50% shows "generally contracting." The PMI is a composite of five indexes: new orders, which rose 1% to 58.2% in March; production, up 2.7% to 59.6%; supplier deliveries slower, rising 1.9% to 52.5%; inventories liquidating slower, rising 0.4% to 44.6%; and employment, declining at a slower rate, up 3% to 48%.