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A report released by MNI Indicators on Wednesday showed an unexpected acceleration in the pace of growth in Chicago-area business activity in the month of December.

MNI Indicators said its Chicago business barometer rose to 59.5 in December from 58.2 in November, with a reading above 50 indicating growth. Economists had expected the barometer to dip to 57.0.

The unexpected uptick by the headline index was partly due to a notable increase by the employment index, which reached a one-year high but continued to indicate a contraction.

The production index also inched up by 1.1 points as business activity picked up, while easing demand led to a 2-point drop by the new orders index.

On the inflation front, the prices paid index climbed 2.2 points to its highest level since September of 2018, with firms reporting higher prices for metals.

When asked about their planned business activity forecast for 2021, 44.9 percent of respondents said they see growth below 5 percent, while 42.9 percent expect growth to be between 5 and 10 percent.

A majority of respondents said they do not yet know if they will adjust their 2021 budget as coronavirus vaccines roll out over the next few months.


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