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Economy in Brief

U.S. Industrial Activity Disappoints While Factory Sector Activity Falls
by Tom Moeller   May 17, 2011

Overall, U.S. industrial production was unchanged during April after a revised 0.8% March jump, initially reported as 0.9%. The latest figure was weaker than Consensus expectations for a 0.4% gain according to Action Economics. More disappointing, however, was the 0.4% decline in factory sector output after an unrevised 0.7% March increase. Also, the 0.1% February uptick was revised sharply lower from 0.6%.

A 7.0% decline (+8.8% y/y) in motor vehicle output led last month's production weakness. Less autos, however, factory production rose 0.2% (4.5% y/y) after a 0.3% March increase. Output of high technology products rose 2.3% (13.6% y/y) led by a 3.3% surge (17.2% y/y) in semiconductors and equipment. Less both the auto and high-tech sectors, April production was unchanged (3.9% y/y) after a 3.7% gain during all of last year. In the durables area, output of appliances and furniture fell 4.2% (-1.2% y/y) in April. Amongst soft goods, apparel production rose 1.5% (2.2% y/y) and chemical production increased 1.2% (1.1% y/y).

Capacity utilization overall slipped to 76.9% but remained up sharply from the recession low of 67.3%. In manufacturing alone, utilization fell m/m to 74.4% but still was 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 80.5% from a low of 68.6%. Overall, capacity slipped 0.2% 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.

Industrial Production (SA, % Change) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Output 0.0 0.8 -0.3 5.0 5.3 -11.2 -3.7
 Manufacturing -0.4 0.7 0.1 4.7 5.4 -13.5 -5.0
   Consumer Goods -0.7 0.9 -0.5 3.9 4.3 -7.2 -5.2
   Business Equipment -0.4 -0.4 0.9 9.9 7.6 -16.3 -2.5
   Construction Supplies -0.1 1.2 -0.7 3.0 3.8 -22.5 -9.7
 Materials 0.3 1.0 -0.3 5.4 6.3 -11.6 -2.7
 Utilities 1.7 0.7 -2.3 7.9 4.0 -2.6 -0.1
Capacity Utilization (%) 76.9 77.0 76.5 73.2 74.5 69.1 77.8
 Manufacturing 74.4 74.8 74.4 70.7 71.7 66.2 74.9
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