By Agence France-Presse Manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic region shrank for the second month in a row in April, a survey by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank showed April 17. The bank's diffusion index of activity in most of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey dropped to minus 8.8 points in April from minus 8 points in March, it said. A reading below zero indicates contraction. It was the first time since December 2001, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, that the index had been negative for two consecutive months. "The region's manufacturers reported weaker activity this month, and most of the survey's indicators suggest declines over the past two months," said the bank's senior economist Mike Trebing. "One-quarter of the firms surveyed in April indicated some decline in new orders because of the war in Iraq." "Despite the current weakness in manufacturing conditions, expectations held steady this month," Trebing said. An index of future expectations eased slightly to 45.8 points in April from 46.4 in March.