Markit Inc.'s (NASDAQ:MRKT) Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) declined 1.7% to 56.3 for July, according to a report (link opens as PDF) released today.

The "flash" estimate is typically based on approximately 85% to 90% of total PMI survey responses each month and is designed to provide an accurate advance indication of the final PMI data. An above-50 reading denotes general growth, while below 50 signals contraction.

While July's index points to solid growth, this month's report came in below analyst expectations for a slight 0.3-point rise from June's 49-month high of 57.6.

According to Markit, a slowdown in manufacturing production growth was a main reason for this month's decline, but its 60.4 component reading still signals a historically strong rate of growth. Markit noted that new business growth remains strong, and that manufacturing employment rose for the 13th straight month.

Improving employment seems to be a common occurrence in today's economic reports, with weekly jobless claims dropping 6.3% to their lowest levels since 2006.

"US manufacturers are enjoying a summer of scorching growth," said Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson in a statement today. "The data suggests the sector is growing at an annualized rate of roughly 8% as we moved into the second half of the year."

Williamson also noted that rising demand enabled manufacturers to increase prices "to the greatest extent seen so far this year," pointing to a positive inflation push for producers.

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