WASHINGTON, March 17 U.S. manufacturing output
rebounded more than expected in February and recorded its
largest increase in six months, in the latest sign that economic
activity is gaining momentum after being dampened by severe
Factory production increased 0.8 percent last month, its
largest increase since August, the Federal Reserve said on
Monday. That almost unwound January's 0.9 percent decline, which
was the largest drop since May 2009.
Manufacturing added to other data such as retail sales and
employment that have suggested the economy was regaining
strength after abruptly slowing down at the end of 2013 and
early this year as an unusual cold winter took its toll.
Last month, mining production rose 0.3 percent, but
utilities output fell 0.2 percent. The rise in manufacturing and
mining output helped to lift overall industrial production 0.6
percent in February.
Production at the nation's mines, factories and power plants
had slipped 0.2 percent in January.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected manufacturing
output to rise 0.2 percent and industrial production to edge up
0.1 percent last month.
Last month, the amount of industrial capacity in use
increased to 78.8 percent from 78.5 percent in January.
Industrial capacity utilization, a measure of how fully
firms are using their resources, was 1.3 percentage points below
its long-run average.
Officials at the Fed tend to look at utilization measures as
a signal of how much "slack" remains in the economy, and how
much room there is for growth to run before it becomes
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)