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US manufacturing output expands modestly in December

[WASHINGTON] US manufacturing output rose modestly in December, slowing from the torrid gains registered a month earlier but still signaling that American industry is weathering the impact of a strong dollar and weaker overseas markets.

Factory output rose 0.3 per cent last month, the Federal Reserve said on Friday. That marks the fourth straight month of growth although the pace was slower than the revised 1.3 per cent expansion in November.

The output reading is consistent with a survey of factory manager sentiment released on Jan. 2 that pointed to a weaker pace of growth in activity last month.

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

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Mining output jumped by 2.2 per cent, reflecting an increase in oil and gas extraction, although a drop in drilling and well-servicing activity tempered the gains.

The gains in manufacturing and mining were not enough to compensate for a sharp 7.3 per cent drop in utilities output, and overall industrial production edged down 0.1 per cent, its first decline in four months.

The decline in utilities was driven be steep falls in sales of electricity and natural gas.