The Philly Fed's survey this month of the region's manufacturers shows slight increases in business activity - a swing from a negative reading in February.

The closely watched Business Outlook Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia for March showed notable increases for general business activity and new orders, the bank said.

The survey's broadest measure of manufacturing conditions increased from a reading of minus 12.5 in February to 2.0 this month. A reading above zero indicates growth. The bank said 75 firms in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware responded to the survey.

Bloomberg News said its survey of economists predicted a rise to minus 3.

"Responses suggest that firms expect further increases in business over the next six months," the bank said. But while firms are generally optimistic, "restrained capital spending plans are in evidence," it said.

The bank said 39 percent of firms said they expect to increase capital spending in 2013, compared to 2012, while 32 percent said spending would decrease.