U.S. factory activity braked to a more than two-year low in August, but sturdy gains in automobile sales and construction spending suggested the economy remained on solid footing.

The sharp slowdown in manufacturing, which has been hurt by a strong dollar and deep spending cuts in the energy sector, was probably an early indication of fallout from the recent turmoil in stock markets, economists said.

And it could bolster the case against the Federal Reserve raising interest rates later this month, they said.

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