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Economy in Brief

U.S. Industrial Output Rebounds With Utility Gain
by Tom Moeller  May 16, 2012

Overall industrial output posted a 1.0% increase last month following a 0.5% March decline, initially reported as no change. The gain doubled Consensus expectations for a 0.5% increase according to Action Economics. A 4.6% (1.2% y/y) surge in utility output, due to the warm spring, led last month's improvement. Factory sector output gained a lesser 0.5% (5.7% y/y) following a 0.4% March drop, revised from -0.2%.

Business equipment production continued strong versus other sectors with a 1.5% rise (12.0% y/y). Consumer goods output increased 0.9% (3.1% y/y) during April led by a 2.4% gain (21.9% y/y) in auto production. Computers, video and audio production followed with a 1.3% rise (5.3% y/y) while appliances, furniture & carpeting also gained 1.3% (3.7% y/y). In the weaker nondurables area, clothing output was unchanged (-2.1% y/y), chemicals slipped 0.1% (-1.9% y/y) and paper products output also was unchanged (0.1% y/y).

Capacity utilization rose to 79.2% last month, its highest level in four years, due to the gain in utility output. In manufacturing alone, utilization ticked up to 77.9% and 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 2.0% decline during 2010. In the factory sector, capacity rose 0.7% y/y and excluding the high-tech industries, it increased 0.3%.

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.

Industrial Production (SA, % Change) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Output 1.0 -0.5 0.4 5.2 4.1 5.4 -11.4
Manufacturing 0.4 -0.5 0.6 4.8 4.3 5.7 -13.8
  Consumer Goods 0.9 -0.5 0.5 3.1 2.3 1.1 -6.9
  Business Equipment 1.5 0.3 1.3 12.0 8.2 8.3 -18.2
  Construction Supplies 0.0 -1.6 2.1 6.5 5.6 3.8 -22.9
Materials 1.3 -0.8 -0.1 5.1 4.6 8.4 -11.5
Utilities 4.6 0.6 1.2 1.2 -0.3 3.6 -2.5
Capacity Utilization (%) 79.2 78.4 78.9 76.1 76.8 73.7 68.5
 Manufacturing 77.9 77.6 78.0 74.3 75.0 71.3 65.5
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