U.S. factory output up 1.2% in February

Friday March 16, 2018
Written by Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press
Mar. 16, 2018 - U.S. factory output jumped last month, led by big gains in the production of cars, computers and furniture.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that manufacturing output rebounded 1.2 per cent in February, the most since October and following three months of weak or negative readings. Factory production has increased a healthy 2.5 per cent in the past year.

Manufacturers are benefiting from robust spending by consumers and businesses and solid growth overseas. Still, consumer demand waned a bit at the start of this year, which could weigh on factory output in the months ahead.

Overall industrial production, which includes mines and utilities, rose 1.1 per cent in February after a decline of 0.3 per cent. Mining output soared 4.3 per cent. Utility production plunged 4.7 per cent as warmer weather reduced demand for heating.

Auto production climbed 3.9 per cent last month after slipping 0.2 per cent in January. Sales were strong at the end of last year, spurred in part by people in Texas and Florida replacing hurricane-destroyed cars. But that process has mostly been completed, and auto sales have slowed in recent months.

Furniture production increased 1.9 per cent, and computer output rose 1.5 per cent, the Fed said.

Other recent reports suggest manufacturing is healthy. A survey of purchasing managers found that factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in 14 years in February, lifted by strong job gains and an increase in inventories. Production and new orders grew but at a slightly slower pace.

Manufacturers are hiring at a rapid clip, adding 224,000 new jobs in the past 12 months.

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