U.S. Industrial Production Falls 0.2% in January

U.S. industrial production unexpectedly fell in January after a record decline in utility output, while manufacturing strengthened for a fourth month.

U.S. industrial production unexpectedly fell in January after a record decline in utility output, while manufacturing strengthened for a fourth month, as reported by Bloomberg.com.

Output at factories, mines and utilities declined 0.2% after a revised 0.9% December gain that was more than previously reported, according to the Federal Reserve. The share of industrial capacity in use was 80.9% last month after 81.2% in December. The December figure was the highest since September 2000.

Business spending to upgrade equipment is keeping manufacturer's orders books full, while oil and gas output is rising as refiners recover from hurricane damage on the Gulf Coast. Factories are running closer to full capacity, increasing the risk that bottlenecks will push up prices and keep Federal policy makers from raising interest rates, economists said.

Utilities reduced power generation as heating demand fell during the warmest January on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC. Utility production slumped 10.1%, the biggest drop ever, as reported by Federal Reserve.

Manufacturing, which accounts for more than 80% of the industrial-output index, rose 0.7% after rising 0.5%.

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