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Economy in Brief

U.S. Factory Sector Improvement Continues
by Tom Moeller   April 15, 2011

U.S. industrial production jumped 0.9% in March following a revised no-change in February, initially reported as -0.1%. The latest increase roughly matched Consensus expectations for a 0.8% gain according to Action Economics.

Improved factory sector output led the increase with a 0.7% rise following like gains in the prior two months.

A 2.9% increase (16.2% y/y) in motor vehicle output led last month's production gain. There was, however, significant improvement in other industry categories. Less autos, production rose 0.8% (5.2% y/y) following two months of little change. Output of high technology equipment rose 0.9% (16.9% y/y) led by a 1.9% surge (26.5% y/y) in computers & office equipment. Less both the auto and high-tech sectors, production rose 0.7% (4.9% y/y) after a 4.0% gain during all of last year. In the durables area output of primary metals gained 6.7% y/y while furniture production rose 5.2%. Amongst soft goods, plastics & rubber output rose 7.2%. Both apparel and chemical production rose 3.8%.

Capacity utilization overall rose to 77.4% and remained up sharply from the recession low of 67.3%. In manufacturing alone, utilization increased to 75.3%, up from 73.9% in December and from the recession low of 64.4%. Notable has been the rise in the computer & electronics industries to 82.3% from a low of 68.6%. Capacity slipped 0.5% y/y last month after a 2.2% drop during all of last year.

Industrial production and capacity data are included in Haver's USECON database, with additional detail in the IP database. The IP database contains figures with more decimal precision and includes extensive lists of "relative importance" numbers for several breakdowns of production by industry and market group. The expectations figure is in the AS1REPNA database.

Small Business Credit Availability is the title of yesterday's speech by Fed Governor Elizabeth A. Duke and it can be found here.

 

Industrial Production (SA, % Change) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Output 0.9 0.0 0.2 5.9 5.3 -11.2 -3.7
 Manufacturing 0.7 0.6 0.8 6.6 5.4 -13.5 -5.0
   Consumer Goods 0.9 0.0 0.0 4.0 4.3 -7.2 -5.2
   Business Equipment 0.5 1.0 1.8 13.4 7.6 -16.3 -2.5
   Construction Supplies 1.5 -0.7 0.9 7.8 3.8 -22.5 -9.7
 Materials 0.7 -0.1 -0.1 6.1 6.3 -11.6 -2.7
 Utilities 1.7 -3.6 -2.2 1.5 4.0 -2.6 -0.1
Capacity Utilization (%) 77.4 76.9 76.9 72.8 74.5 69.1 77.8
 Manufacturing 75.3 74.9 74.5 70.0 71.7 66.2 74.9
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