Factory Output Rises Again In February

Manufacturing activity in the U.S. rose for a sixth consecutive month as factories hummed with renewed vigor, producing more vehicles, fabricated metals and machinery.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has reported that factory production accelerated 0.5% in February over the previous month. The advance followed a January in which production also rose a half of a percent. The gains in February and January represented the best back-to-back monthly performances in three years. A stronger global market, increased business spending on machinery, and greater consumer investment in automobiles has helped propel the rise in output.

The Federal Reserve findings are in line with the results of a study from the Institute For Supply Management that economic activity in the manufacturing sector increased in February. Released earlier this month, ISM’s manufacturing index rose from 56 in January to 57.7 last month – the highest reading since August 2014. Readings above 50 indicate economic expansion.

Factory activity accounts for about 75% of total U.S. industrial production, which remained unchanged in February. Overall industrial output was tempered by a 5.7% decline in utility production, which suffered from an unseasonably warm winter that pushed down demand for heating. Nonetheless, there were significant positive signs in other production industries, including a 2.7% jump in mining, which was powered, in part, by increased oil and gas drilling.