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Manufacturers continued to report strong growth in activity, with the sector remaining one of the
brightest spots in the economy. In the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the National
Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 88.7 percent of respondents felt either somewhat or very positive
about their own company’s outlook, down from 92.5 percent in the third quarter (Figure 1). While that
represents the second straight easing in confidence from the all-time high reading in the second quarter
(95.1 percent), the four-quarter annual average, which reaches back to when congressional passage of
tax reform appeared increasingly likely, shows that manufacturers’ optimism for 2018 reached the
highest level on record in the 20-year history of the survey. On average this year, 92.4 percent of
manufacturers surveyed reported a positive outlook for their companies (surpassing the 2017 average of
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