Felix Salmon (now at Reuters) with the details:
The Philadelphia Fed said its business activity index came in at minus 24.4 in April compared with minus 35.0 in March. A reading below zero indicates contraction in the region's manufacturing sector.
The median forecast among economists polled by Reuters was minus 32.0.
Among the survey's relative bright spots, the new orders index came in at minus 24.3 compared with minus 40.7 in March, while the employee gauge stood at minus 44.9 against March's minus 52.0.
The outlook among Mid-Atlantic companies also improved in April. The Philadelphia Fed's six-month conditions index bounced up to 36.2 from 14.5 in March. The April outlook figure was the highest since October 2007 prior to the start of the current recession.
Source: Philadelphia Fed