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Economy in Brief

U.S. Industrial Output Down
by Tom Moeller March 17, 2008

Industrial production fell 0.5% last month after an unrevised 0.1% rise during January. The decline was greater than the 0.1% slip that was generally expected. The cause of the surprise, however, primarily was due to a 3.7% drop in utility output, caused by warm Winter temperatures during February.

Factory output fell 0.3% during February. A reading of no change in January production was revised down from a 0.1% uptick reported initially. The m/m decline was the first since October and three month growth in output fell to -0.7% (AR). Production in the high tech sector rose 1.1% last month after a 0.3% January increase. Outside the high tech sector, factory output fell 0.4% during February after having been unchanged during January. Three month output growth fell to -1.1% (AR).

Production of computers & electronics again surged last month by 1.2% and three month growth totaled a strong 12.3%.

Severe weakness has taken over output elsewhere in the durable goods area. Output of furniture & appliances fell 3.1% last month after a 2.5% January decline. Three month output growth here fell to -25.4% at an annual rate. Output of automotive products dropped 1.2% and on a three month basis fell 6.2%. In the nondurables sector apparel product output fell 0.4%, the second consecutive decline, though that followed a strong 2.4% December jump. On a three month basis output growth was a still firm 3.2%.

Output of business equipment ticked up 0.1% for the second month and three month growth totaled 4.2%. Output of industrial equipment less high tech slipped 0.1% with three month growth still positive at 3.9%.

Output of construction supplies fell 0.7% during February for the second consecutive month and three month growth remained negative at -3.7%.

Capacity utilization fell to 80.9%, its lowest level since late 2005. Utilization in the factory sector slipped to 79.3%, its lowest also since late 2005. Annual growth in capacity is estimated at 1.7% y/y for 2.1% in the factory sector.

Yesterday the Federal Reserve announced two initiatives to promote financial market liquidity and orderly market functioning. The text of the announcement can be found here.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION (SA) February January Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total -0.5 0.1 1.1 1.9 4.0 3.2
  Manufacturing -0.3 0.0 1.7 1.9 4.7 3.9
  Utilities -3.7 2.2 -5.4 3.1 0.2 2.0
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