WASHINGTON: Unseasonably warm weather in December held down Americans’ use of gas and electricity, weighing on US industrial production for the month, the Federal Reserve reported Friday.
But otherwise the industrial sector hummed along at the close of 2018, with manufacturing hitting a 10-month high while oil and gas drilling also rose.
Economists have warned that US manufacturing may have peaked but December’s numbers, which are subject to revision, suggested a slowdown may not have begun yet.
The Fed’s industrial production index rose 0.3 percent, a tenth of a point slower than November but faster than the 0.2 percent economists had been expecting.
Manufacturing output jumped 1.1 percent, the biggest gain since February, driven higher by the key auto sector, which accelerated by 4.7 percent.
Mining activity — mainly oil and gas drilling — was up 1.5 percent, which helped offset the sharp 6.3 percent decline utilities.
Production in 2018 rose four percent compared to the prior year, while manufacturing posted a 3.2 percent increase.
Industrial capacity in use rose to 78.7 percent last month, two tenths above the consensus forecast but still below the long-run average.
But the mining sector rose to 94.8 percent, well above the 87.0 percent average recorded between 1972 and 2017. —AFP