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U.S. Industrial Production Up Slightly in February

Wall Street Journal (03/16/15) Josh Mitchell

U.S. industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in February from January, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve, but a fall in manufacturing output reflected an economy that retreated in the first quarter. Utility output soared during unusually cold weather, but factory and mining production fell, reflecting weaker demand and cuts in the energy sector.

Capacity utilization, a measure of slack in the industrial sector, fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 78.9. Lower capacity utilization could encourage companies to delay investment, which would hinder economic growth. Capacity utilization has risen steadily during the recovery but has not topped the above-80 level seen just before the recession began in late 2007.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.2% increase in industrial production and capacity utilization of 79.5%. Meanwhile, updated numbers show January industrial production was far weaker than initially estimated. Production declined 0.3% in January instead of the previously reported gain of 0.2%.