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May 17, 2018

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US posts increase in industrial production in April

COLD weather and strong mining activity combined with a solid showing by manufacturing firms to drive a jump in US industrial production in April, the Federal Reserve said yesterday.

Even the sharp decline in production of cars and auto parts was not enough to dampen the strong start to the first quarter, according to the data.

Total industrial production rose 0.7 percent compared to March, slightly better than economists expected, and was 3.5 percent faster than April 2017.

The output gain in March was revised higher, also to 0.7 percent, but the prior months were revised downward, meaning the production gain in the first quarter of the year was 0.6 percentage points lower than previously reported.

Still, the April data reflected broad strength across nearly all sectors and bodes well for growth in the second quarter.

The “below-normal temperatures” last month drove a 1.9 percent increase in utilities, which included a 10 percent surge in gas due to the strong demand for heating, the report said.

Mining output rose 1.1 percent, and was 10.6 percent higher than the same month of 2017, fueled on gains in oil and gas extraction, which offset the decline in coal mining.

The key manufacturing sector posted a 0.5 percent output rise, which included gains of over one percent in machinery, computer and electronic products, electrical equipment and appliances, and aerospace and transport equipment.

However, motor vehicles and parts shed 1.3 percent, the first decline since November, even while production was over three percent above April 2017.

Wood products was the only other category that fell over one percent.

Total industrial capacity in use in April rose to 78 percent, the highest since March 2015 but still nearly two points below the long-run average, the Fed said.


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