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US factory output rose 08 per cent in July as automaker productivity

by Josh Boak, The Associated Press Posted Aug 14, 2015 7:40 am MDT Last Updated Aug 14, 2015 at 10:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email US factory output rose 0.8 per cent in July as automaker productivity accelerated WASHINGTON – Auto plants, clothing makers and plastics factories drove a sharp rebound in U.S. manufacturing in July.U.S. factory production climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.8 per cent last month after a revised estimate showed that output had dipped 0.3 per cent in June, the Federal Reserve said Friday. The gains suggested that manufacturers are adjusting to the obstacles of a stronger dollar, tepid economic growth abroad and lower oil prices, which have led energy companies to slash their orders for equipment and pipelines.“Industrial production is turning around after weakness in early 2015,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services.Much of the improvement came from motor vehicle output, which surged 10.6 per cent in July. Auto sales jumped 5 per cent to 1.5 million, with luxury brands such as Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lincoln and Volvo accounting for double-digit gains.Output at clothing and leather factories rose 1 per cent last month, as did the manufacturing of plastics and rubber products. Some of those gains were offset by reduced output by oil and coal refiners, as well as by a drop in productivity at machinery plants.Some analysts suggested that the gains in auto production weren’t as impressive as the numbers might indicate. Jesse Hurwitz at Barclays Research noted that auto plants generally close temporarily in July to retool for new model lines and that the shutdown this year was shorter than normal. This would mean that the Fed report exaggerated the gains in motor vehicle output last month and that auto production might dip in August.The Federal Reserve said overall industrial production — which includes not only the key category of manufacturing but also mining and utility output— rose 0.6 per cent. Mining, which includes oil and gas wells, rose 0.2 per cent last month but remains down 2 per cent over the past 12 months. Utility output, which often fluctuates sharply from month to month depending on weather, fell 1 per cent.Factories have been battered for much of 2015. Winter storms slowed and even stopped some assembly lines in January and February.The slowdown extended into spring. Orders for equipment and machinery were hurt by the rising value of the dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas and depressed exports. Lower oil prices, which slowed orders from energy firms, also reduced output.The dollar has risen about 20 per cent against a basket of foreign currencies in the past 12 months, according to the Fed.Crude oil prices, which were around $60 per barrel in the spring, fell close to $41 in early trading Friday, levels not seen since the global financial crisis. The decline has forced energy firms to curtail drilling, eliminating much of the need for new pipelines and equipment that had boosted factory orders in years when prices were closer to $100 a barrel.Over the past 12 months, manufacturing output has risen just 1.5 per cent.Still, the steady consumer demand for autos is a positive sign for a manufacturing sector facing many headwinds. Other indicators show evidence of increased consumer demand that could help support broader economic growth.Factory orders rose 1.8 per cent in June, the government reported earlier this month. Much of the gains came from surging demand for commercial aircraft, a volatile sector that can vary widely from month to month.A key category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans edged up 0.7 per cent after declines in April and May. For the first half of the year, this category has declined 3.5 per cent from the same period a year ago and has slowed overall economic growth. read more