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Economy in Brief

U.S. Industrial Output Remains Unchanged; Factory Output Slips
by Tom Moeller  April 17, 2012

There's been no forward momentum recently in U.S. production activity. Industrial production was unchanged last month (3.8% y/y) following an unrevised no-change during February. The latest figure again disappointed Consensus expectations for a 0.3% increase according to Action Economics. Factory sector output fell 0.2% (+4.9% y/y) following strength during the prior three months. Utility output recovered 1.5% (-4.6% y/y) while mining ticked up 0.3% (4.2% y/y).

Business equipment production remained firm relative to other sectors last month. Its modest 0.2% rise followed several strong months and its 9.6% y/y increase was several times the gains in most other sectors. Indeed, consumer goods output fell 0.2% (+2.2% y/y) in March. The drop reflected a 0.4% decline (+12.6% y/y) in autos, a 2.3% falloff (-0.6% y/y) in appliances and a 2.3% drop (-0.8% y/y) in clothing. Showing strength were computers, audio & video equipment where output rose 1.1% (7.4% y/y). Excluding both the high-tech and auto sectors, output dipped 0.1% (+3.4% y/y) following no-change in February.

Capacity utilization slipped to 78.6% last month. In manufacturing alone utilization fell to 77.8% but remained up from the recession low of 64.4%. Overall capacity is estimated to have risen 1.1% y/y following a 0.2% dip last year and a 2.2% decline during 2010. In the factory sector, capacity rose 0.7% y/y and excluding the high-tech industries, it increased 0.6%.

Industrial production and capacity data are included in Haver's USECON database, with additional detail in the IP database. The expectations figure is in the AS1REPNA database.

The World Economic Outlook from the International Monetary Fund can be found here.

Industrial Production (SA, % Change) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Output 0.0 0.0 0.7 3.8 4.1 5.4 -11.4
Manufacturing -0.2 0.9 1.1 4.9 4.3 5.7 -13.8
  Consumer Goods -0.2 0.5 0.3 2.2 2.3 1.1 -6.9
  Business Equipment 0.2 1.3 2.0 9.6 8.2 8.3 -18.2
  Construction Supplies -1.4 1.9 -0.1 6.8 5.6 3.8 -22.9
Materials 0.2 -0.9 0.8 3.5 4.6 8.4 -11.5
Utilities 1.5 0.1 -1.9 -4.6 -0.3 3.6 -2.5
Capacity Utilization (%) 78.6 78.7 78.7 76.5 76.8 73.7 68.5
 Manufacturing 77.8 78.0 77.5 74.7 75.0 71.3 65.5
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