This morning’s Industrial Production report showed a slight increase last month. Last month, IP rose by 0.1% while the Street had been expecting an increase of 0.3%.
Last month’s production rise was driven in large part by a 3.7% increase in utilities, a category subject to weather fluctuations. It also likely reflects some recovery from a weak January, when industry output fell a revised 0.4%.
But manufacturing, which accounts for nearly three-fourths of the nation’s industrial production, remained on shaky footing last month. Output at all U.S. factories decreased 0.4% after falling 0.5% in January. The decline was spread across multiple sectors, with output of machinery, electronics and apparel all dropping.
Economists are increasingly worried that recent trends in global industry, and a slowing world economy more broadly, will filter into the U.S. manufacturing industry.
While recent Commerce Department figures showed domestic demand for manufactured goods remains solid, other measures have shown some cooling. The Institute for Supply Management said its measure of factory-sector activity weakened in February, and hiring in the sector has also slowed, according to the Labor Department.
Friday’s report showed mining output ticked up 0.3% in February.
Capacity utilization, which reflects how much industries are producing compared with what they could potentially produce, edged down to 78.2% in February from 78.3% a month earlier. Capacity utilization has remained below long-run averages. Economists had expected a utilization rate of 78.4%.