Oil Prices Seen Damping U.S. Manufacturing In 2005 And 2006

"High energy prices will have a depressing impact on petrochemical, metals, and other energy-intensive industries and will contribute to the deceleration of manufacturing production this year and next," says Daniel J. Meckstroth, chief economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, an Arlington, Va.-based business and public policy research group.

Indeed, some slowing started showing up in July, when factory output grew just one-tenth of a percentage point, compared with four-tenths growth in the two previous months, the Federal Reserve reported on August 16. Capacity utilization among manufacturers last month was 78.3%, the same as the revised figure for June.

Overall U.S. industrial production, which includes mining and utilities in addition to manufacturing, grew a tenth-percent in July, with mining output dropping 1.3% from June and utility output increasing seven-tenths of a percent.

Meanwhile, the much-talked-about U.S. housing bubble did not burst in July. But, as measured by housing starts, it became slightly smaller.

Starts of privately-owned housing were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.042 million last month, one tenth of a percentage point below the revised June rate of 2.045 million, the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly reported on August 16.

In July, starts of single-family housing were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.711 million, half a percentage point higher than June's rate of 1.703 million. Starts for multi-family housing, buildings with five or more units, was at a rate of 289,000, down 5.6% from June's rate of 306,000.

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