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Industrial production flat but factory output rises

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/17/2017 Anne-Marcelle Ngabirano

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U.S. industrial production was unchanged in February as mild weather curtailed utility usage but manufacturing output rose for the sixth straight month.

Economists expected a 0.2% advance in industrial production overall, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Output increased 0.5% at the nation's factories and 2.7% in mining as both sectors were bolstered by an oil price rebound since last year that has led crude producers to revive shuttered wells and order more steel pipes. But utility production plunged 5.7% as unseasonably warm weather reduced the need for heating.

Factory output accounts for about 12 percent of the economy. Manufacturing had struggled since 2014 due to the oil downturn, a weaker global economy and a strong dollar that has made U.S. exports more expensive overseas.

The partial oil price rebound and improving global economy have started to turn things around. Manufacturing output excluding autos rose 0.4% in February, after a 0.6% January gain. 

" With employment and output in both the manufacturing and mining sectors now recovering after a prolonged period of weakness, this should provide some support to GDP growth this year," Andrew Hunter, economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

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