Automotive activity provides momentum, Fed survey finds
The Federal Reserve Bank’s U.S. Industrial Production survey indicated manufacturing output rose 0.7% during January, following a 1.5% increase for December 2011. The auto industry and its suppliers proved especially strong, buoying aerospace and other transportation, as well as machinery, fabricated metal products, and several other sectors that were less vibrant to start the year.
The overall January 2012 year-to-date increase for manufacturing was 4.5%, and the improvement extended to factory capacity utilization rates, which rose 0.5% for the month to a rate of 77%. That figure, however, remains 1.9% below the Fed’s long-run average for manufacturing capacity utilization.
The Fed’s report supports the finding of the Institute for Supply Management, which earlier this month concluded January manufacturing activity increased for the third consecutive month, by about 1% from December.
The new data found production improving across several industry segments, chiefly automotive vehicles and parts — up 6.8% from December. Production activity also increased for fabricated metal products; machinery; computer and electronic products; electrical equipment, appliances, and components; furniture and related products; and miscellaneous manufacturing. Other than the automotive sector, the various other groups increased production levels by 1.0% or more.
Manufacturing of aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment rose, too, though by just 0.1%.
Production levels declined for wood products, nonmetallic mineral products, and primary metals, the Fed determined.