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US manufacturing output beats expectations in October

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US manufacturing output increased for a fifth straight month in October, shrugging off a sharp decline in motor vehicle production and suggesting underlying strength in factory activity.

[WASHINGTON] US manufacturing output increased for a fifth straight month in October, shrugging off a sharp decline in motor vehicle production and suggesting underlying strength in factory activity.

The Federal Reserve said on Friday manufacturing production rose 0.3 per cent last month. Data for September was revised up to show output at factories increasing 0.3 per cent instead of advancing 0.2 per cent as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast manufacturing output rising 0.2 per cent in October.

Motor vehicle production slumped 2.8 per cent after increasing 1.3 per cent in September. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing gained a solid 0.5 per cent last month, boosted by a strong increase in the output of business equipment. That followed a 0.2 per cent rise in September.

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Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 per cent of the economy, is being supported by a strong domestic economy. But growing capacity constraints amid labor shortages and more expensive raw material are slowing momentum. A strong dollar and cooling global growth are restraining exports.

October's rise in manufacturing production offset decreases in mining and utilities output, leading to a 0.1 per cent gain in industrial production last month. Industrial output rose 0.2 per cent in September.

Mining output fell 0.3 per cent in October after slipping 0.1 per cent in September. Oil and gas well drilling rebounded 1.6 percent after declining for three straight months.

Utilities output dropped 0.5 per cent in October after dipping 0.1 per cent in the prior month.

Capacity utilization for the manufacturing sector, a measure of how fully firms are using their resources, rose to 76.2 per cent in October, the highest since July 2015, from 76.1 per cent in September. Overall capacity use for the industrial sector fell to 78.4 per cent from 78.5 in September. It is 1.4 percentage points below its 1972-to-2017 average.

Officials at the Fed tend to look at capacity use measures for signals of how much "slack" remains in the economy - how far growth has room to run before it becomes inflationary.

REUTERS