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US industrial output rises 0.8 per cent as utilities surge

[WASHINGTON] US industrial production rebounded in December due to the biggest jump in utilities since 1989 as temperatures cooled across the country.

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday industrial output rose 0.8 per cent last month after a downwardly revised 0.7 per cent decline in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast industrial production rising 0.6 per cent. The US central bank's measure of the industrial sector comprises manufacturing, mining, and electric and gas utilities.

Overall industrial production, however, fell at an annual rate of 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter.

The bulk of December's increase was due to the 6.6 per cent rise in the utilities index, which had been hampered the previous month by unseasonably warm weather.

Manufacturing output edged up 0.2 per cent and mining production was unchanged.

Overall manufacturing output rose at an annual rate of 0.7 per cent in the fourth quarter while the index for mining surged 11.9 per cent in the quarter.

With overall output increasing in December, the percentage of industrial capacity in use rose 0.6 percentage point in December to 75.5 per cent, from a slightly downwardly revised 74.9 per cent in November.

Fed officials look to capacity use as a signal for how much further the economy can accelerate before sparking higher inflation.


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