The U.S. manufacturing sector continued to expand in February, boosted by rising new orders and production, evidence of an ongoing economic recovery, a leading industry survey showed Friday. The U.S. Institute of Supply Management (ISM) said the manufacturing index, also known as the purchasing managers index ( PMI), rose from 53.1 percent in January to 54.2 in February, the highest reading since June 2011 when the index registered 55.8 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing sector is generally expanding, while a reading below 50 percent indicates contraction. The new orders index rose to 57.8 percent last month from 53.3 in January. The production index stood at 57.6 percent in February, an increase from 53.6 percent in January. Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 15 reported growth last month including transportation equipment, electrical equipment and machinery. Three industries reported contraction such as textile mills and chemical products, according to the ISM. Manufacturing has been a bright spot in output and employment since the recession ended in June 2009. Analysts said further growth in the sector and a rebound in the housing market may help underpin U.S. economy as the roughly 85 billion U.S. dollars of automatic federal spending cuts are set to kick in Friday.