WASHINGTON – U.S. industrial output rose steadily in June, driven by a rebound in oil exploration and coal mining.
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Industrial output -- how much manufacturers, mining companies and utilities produced -- grew 0.4% in June from May, the Federal Reserve said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.3% gain.
Output has risen for five consecutive months, evidence the economy strengthened in the second quarter after a sluggish start to the year.
Industrial production rose at an annual rate of 4.7% in April through June, more than triple the first quarter's gain of 1.4%.
Production has risen 2% over the past year -- -in line with steady but modest overall economic growth.
The rebound has been driven by mining output, which grew 1.6% in June and has risen nearly 10% over the past year. Energy companies are boosting oil and gas extraction this year after several years of weakness caused by a drop in oil prices, which have rebounded. Coal mining has also increased.
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But oil markets have been choppy this year, and it is unclear whether the rise in output will continue. "The more recent weakness of crude oil prices suggests that mining activity could drop back in the second half of the year," Andrew Hunter, economist at Capital Economists, said in a note to clients.
Manufacturing output has grown more modestly. Factory output climbed 0.2% in June and is up 1.2% over the year. Manufacturing of durable goods -- long-lasting goods like machinery -- climbed at a healthy pace in June, including steady growth in production of autos. Output of nondurable goods -- everyday items like food and apparel -- grew more tepidly.
Utility output, the final component of industrial production, was flat in June and has fallen 2.2% over the past 12 months.
Capacity use, a measure of the economy's output as a share of its potential, climbed two-tenths of a percentage point from a month earlier to 76.6% in June. The measure has risen 1% over the past year but remains more than 3 percentage points below its historical level.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 14, 2017 11:22 ET (15:22 GMT)