Industrial output rises in December but utilities slump

WASHINGTON, Wed Jan 16, 2013 — Industrial output rose in December and motor vehicle assembly picked up, suggesting the manufacturing sector continues to expand at a moderate pace.

Industrial production increased 0.3 percent last month after a 1.0 percent increase in November, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday. The gain was in line with economists’ expectations.

Manufacturing production increased 0.8 percent in December after advancing 1.3 percent the prior month. Automobile assembly increased from November’s pace.

For the fourth quarter, industrial production rose at a 1.0 percent annual pace. Manufacturing output increased at a tepid 0.2 percent pace during the October-December period.

Factory activity has cooled in recent months and the industrial production report supported views that the sector, which carried the economy’s recovery from the 2007-09 recession, was not heading for a hard landing.

Last month, mining production gained 0.6 percent after rising 0.3 percent in November. Utilities output slumped 4.8 percent as unseasonably warm weather held down demand for heating.

Last month, the amount of industrial capacity in use edged up to 78.8 percent from 78.7 percent in November.

Industrial capacity utilization  —  a measure of how fully firms are using their resources  — was 1.5 percentage points below its long-run average.

Officials at the Fed tend to look at utilization measures as a signal of how much “slack” remains in the economy, and how much room growth has to run before it becomes inflationary.

Industrial output rises 0.4 percent in September

WASHINGTON, Tue Oct 16, 2012 – Industrial output rose by more than expected in September, posting a sharp rebound from a downwardly revised drop the previous month, which had been held back because of hurricane impact on oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Industrial production rose by 0.4 percent, the Federal Reserve said on Tuesday. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.2 percent rise compared to a 1.4 percent decline in August. This was initially reported as a 1.2 percent drop.

Industrial production encompasses output from factories, utilities and mining operations, including oil and natural gas production.

Manufacturing output rose by 0.2 percent, utilities output was up 1.5 percent and mining output advanced 0.9 percent in September.

Capacity utilization, a measure of how fully firms are using their resources, was at 78.3 percent in September, matching forecasts, and was slightly higher than the 78.0 percent rate in August. This was previously estimated at 78.2 percent.