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Economy in Brief

U.S. Industrial Output Up 0.3% Last Month
by Tom Moeller April 16, 2008

Industrial production last month rose 0.3% after a 0.7% February decline which was deeper than reported initially. Also revised down was production growth last year and during 2006. A 0.1% decline in March output had been the Consensus expectation.

Factory output ticked up 0.1% in March after falling by a downwardly revised 0.5% in February. The three month change in output, however, fell to a negative 1.4% (AR). Production in the high tech sector has been strong and rose 1.3% (13.1% y/y), as it did in February. Outside the high tech sector, factory output fell 0.1% and a February decline was revised deeper to -0.7%. Three month output growth in manufacturing output less high tech fell to -2.8% (AR) but appliance production rose 5.0% last month.

Production of computers & electronics surged again last month by 2.6% and three month growth totaled 20.3% (AR).

Weakness elsewhere in the durable goods area continued intense. Output of furniture & appliances is down at a 10.5% rate during the last three months while production of automotive products has fallen at a 29.0% rate. Auto output is down partially due to the workers' strike at the American Axel Company. Machinery production is off at a 1.2% rate and metals output turned negative. In the nondurables sector apparel product output has fallen at a 10.8% rate over the last three months.

Output of business equipment increased 0.6% after no change in February. Output of industrial equipment less high tech recovered 0.7% after a 0.2% February slip. The three month growth rate improved to 3.9%.

Capacity utilization rose slightly to 80.5% during March but utilization in the factory sector slipped to 78.5%, its lowest also since late 2005. Annual growth in capacity is growing 1.8% y/y and at 2.1% in the factory sector. Less high tech, capacity growth is a lower 0.9% y/y.

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION (SA) March February Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total 0.3 -0.7 1.5 1.7 2.2 3.3
  Manufacturing 0.1 -0.5 1.2 1.7 2.4 4.0
  Utilities 1.9 -3.6 2.3 3.3 -0.6 2.1
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