Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region was picking up steam this month, according to an index of industry conditions from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve.

The index rose to 20.4 in December from 16.7 in November, the bank said today.

The rise was higher than forecast. Readings greater than zero signal growth and this month's level was the highest since April 2005, Bloomberg News reported. However, gains in orders slowed in December, limiting prospects for early 2010.

The report contrasts with a similar gauge issued by the Fed Bank of New York this week that showed manufacturing in that region slowed more than economists anticipated, Bloomberg said.