U.S. Industrial Output Falls for Fifth Straight Month

Industrials Reuters

U.S. industrial production fell for a fifth straight month in April, weighed down by declines in mining and utilities output, pointing to a lack of momentum in the economy at the start of the second quarter.

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Industrial output slipped 0.3 percent after a revised 0.3 percent drop in March, the Federal Reserve said on Friday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast industrial production edging up 0.1 percent last month after a previously reported 0.6 percent fall in March, which was the biggest drop since August 2012.

The dour report added to weak retail sales data in suggesting that the economy was struggling to regain momentum after growth slowed abruptly in the first quarter.

Mining production fell 0.8 percent as oil and gas well drilling plunged 14.5 percent. It was the fourth straight monthly decline in mining output. Utilities production tumbled 1.3 percent, likely as warmer weather reduced demand for heating.

Manufacturing output was unchanged after an upwardly revised 0.3 percent gain in March.

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Industrial capacity use fell to 78.2 percent, the lowest since January of last year, from 78.6 percent in March.

Officials at the Fed tend to look at capacity use as a signal of how much "slack" remains in the economy and how much room there is for growth to accelerate before it becomes inflationary.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)