For the second month in a row industrial production increased. Overall industrial production was 2.3% above its January 2007 level. For January the increase was 0.1%.
"The diminutive 0.1% increase in industrial production is uniquely due to increased utility production and petroleum refineries cranking out fuel oil to warm homes and businesses during the cold weather in January," said Daniel J. Meckstroth, chief economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI.
Output in the manufacturing sector was unchanged in January, as lower output of motor vehicles and parts offset a small net gain elsewhere. In December there was an increase of 0.2%. "Industry-by-industry production data reveal an industrial sector that is hurting from the collapse in construction material demand and falling consumer demand for big-ticket items like motor vehicles and furniture. The only reason that the manufacturing sector in not in a sharp decline is that the decline in the value of the dollar has made U.S. exports very competitive in the world market again. Surging exports are cushioning the domestic weakness," explained Meckstroth.
The factory operating rate decreased 0.1 percentage point in January, to 79.7%, a level 0.1 percentage point below its 1972-2007 average.
The index for durable goods was unchanged. The indexes for computer and electronic products, for nonmetallic mineral products, and for aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment all posted sizable gains. However, output declined for wood products, primary metals, motor vehicles and parts and furniture and related products.
The production of nondurables edged up 0.1%. The output of petroleum and coal products advanced 2.6%, and the output of food, beverage and tobacco products rose 0.4%. In contrast, the output index for textile and product mills fell 2.7%, and the output indexes for plastics and rubber products and for printing and support each fell about 1.5%.
Capacity utilization at industries grouped by stage of processing changed as follows: For the crude stage, utilization decreased nearly 1 percentage point, to 89.8%. For the primary and semifinished stages, utilization increased 0.2 percentage point, to 81.9%. For the finished stage, utilization was unchanged at 78.3%.