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Industrial production declined 0.1 percent in February after having risen 0.3 percent in January; output in January was previously estimated to have edged down 0.1 percent.
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Manufacturing output increased 0.4 percent in February, and the gain in January was revised up to 0.9 percent. Outside of manufacturing, the output of mines rose 0.8 percent in February, which more than reversed its decline in January. However, the output of utilities fell 4.5 percent - the drop reflected unseasonably warm weather in February, which reduced the demand for heating after two months of unseasonably cold temperatures.
At 95.5 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production was 5.6 percent above its year-earlier level. The capacity utilization rate for total industry edged down 0.1 percentage point to 76.3 percent, a rate 4.2 percentage points below its average from 1972 to 2010.
Cliff Waldman, economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, said: “The factory sector continues to be a primary catalyst for the still shaky economic expansion, although the February data hint at a degree of moderation that is consistent with somewhat slower growth in capital spending and exports. Production activity in key supply chain sectors was weak in February, with machinery output flat and primary metals output contracting by 1.1 percent."
He also noted that February gains were entirely in durable manufacturing, helped by a "powerful automobile replacement cycle that had been delayed by consumer credit bottlenecks, which now finally appear to have cleared."
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