[WASHINGTON] US industrial production rose in January after three straight months of declines, buoyed by a strong utilities index and growing manufacturing sector.
Industrial output increased 0.9 per cent after a downwardly revised 0.7 per cent decline in December, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday. The US central bank had previously reported a 0.4 per cent drop for December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast industrial production rising 0.4 per cent last month.
The industrial sector measured by the Fed comprises manufacturing, mining, and electric and gas utilities.
A massive blizzard in the northeastern United States late in January likely held down production by a small amount, the Fed said, but it was also boosted by a marked rise in demand for heating after what had been an unseasonably warm winter.
The utilities index rose 5.4 per cent last month, following a 2.9 per cent drop the month before.
The rise in output also reflected a 0.5 per cent increase in manufacturing. Analysts had expected manufacturing to tick up 0.3 per cent, according to a Reuters poll.
The mining index was flat last month and down 9.8 per cent from the same period a year ago.
With output on the rise, the per centage of industrial capacity in use rose to 77.1 per cent from a downwardly revised 76.4 per cent in December.
The Fed views capacity use as a leading indicator in deciding how much further the economy can grow before sparking higher inflation.