Strong auto output boosts US factory productionBy CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
The Associated Press | March 17,2013WASHINGTON — A strong increase in auto output boosted U.S. factory production last month, the latest sign that manufacturing is helping drive economic growth after lagging for much of 2012.
Factory output rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent in February from January, after falling 0.3 percent in the previous month, the Federal Reserve reported.
The biggest gain was in autos and auto parts, where production increased 3.6 percent after falling 4.9 percent in January.
U.S. auto sales have risen steadily this year after reaching a five-year high last year.
Overall industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, rose 0.7 percent in February. That is the most in three months.
Utility output jumped 1.6 percent while mining output, which covers oil and gas drilling, fell 0.3 percent, the third straight decline.
The recovery in home construction and increased business investment in machinery and other goods are also boosting output. Production of construction supplies, which includes steel, cement and wood products, rose 1.5 percent. That was the fourth straight solid gain.
Factories also cranked out more industrial machinery, appliances, and furniture.
“Growth has clearly picked up,” Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients. “This is another positive sign” for the economy in the January-March quarter.
O’Sullivan forecasts that growth will jump to a 3 percent annual rate in the first quarter, after barely expanding in the final three months of last year.
Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse, said the healthy increase in output suggests manufacturers will need step up hiring in the months ahead. Factory job gains could rise to 20,000 a month, up from average gains of 13,000 in the past three months.
The report adds to recent signs that manufacturing is picking up.
A closely watched index of U.S. manufacturing activity increased in February for the third straight month. Big increases in new orders and production pushed the Institute for Supply Management’s index to its highest level in 20 months.
New car and truck sales rose 4 percent in February from a year earlier to an annual pace of 15.4 million. That’s a big improvement from sales of only 10.4 million in 2009. It’s still short of the pre-recession peak of 17 million in 2005. Auto makers are expected to have boosted output last month to keep up with the sales.
Increasing factory output is contributing to an improved outlook for the economy this year. Americans are spending more, despite higher Social Security taxes and a sharp increase in gas prices. Retail sales rose in February at a healthy pace.
The job market is also gaining steam. Employers have added more than 200,000 jobs per month in the past four months, nearly double the average last spring. That’s pushed the unemployment rate down to a four-year low of 7.7 percent.
As a result many economists are more optimistic about growth in the January-March quarter. Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, raised his forecast for first quarter growth to an annual rate of 3 percent, up from only 1.5 percent.MORE IN National / World BusinessWASHINGTON — President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony Pictures Entertainment “made a... Full StoryWASHINGTON — President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony Pictures Entertainment “made a... Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Vermont Gas Systems puts Phase 2 on hold as the latest estimate for Phase 1 takes a 27 percent leap upward, to a total of $157 million; U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin quits for job with private firm; police cite man in pot bust.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: In 1972, Christmas bombing of North Vietnam ordered by President Richard Nixon, most lethal strikes of the war; in 1989, U.S. invades Panama to depose, arrest and charge Gen. Manuel Noriega with drug trafficking, racketeering.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Gov. Peter Shumlin announces demise of his single-payer health insurance initiative; convicted first-degree murderer Alan Prue sentenced to 50 years for killing teacher Melissa Jenkins; veterans chafed about park naming snub.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: In 497 BC, first Saturnalia festival celebrated in Rome, Scandinavians retain 'Yule Goat' as symbol of season, Krampus, evil side of holiday cheer, terrorizes children into better behavior, more advice from Christopher Hitchens.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: In 533 AD, Byzantine Emperor Justinian I gets the old empire back together again routing the Vandals from Carthage; in 1890, Lakota Chief Sitting Bull is killed at his home in South Dakota; in 1970, Soviets land probe on Venus.
- DUANE CARLETON: Rutland Herald Events Editor George Nostrand interviews musician Duane Carleton, whose new CD 'A GIRL LIKE THAT' drops Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, and will be celebrated that evening with a show at 9:30 p.m. at Killington's Pickle Barrel.