Industrial production increased 0.4% in March following a 1.1% improvement in February. Largely due to cooler-than-normal temperatures, utilities output was 5.3% stronger in March compared to February. Manufacturing output declined by 0.1% from February to March, but registered a 2.5% improvement when compared to March 2012. Production at mines retreated by 0.2% from February, yet remained 3.8% above March 2012. At 99.5% of its 2007 average, March’s total industrial production was 3.5% above its year-earlier level. March’s total industry capacity utilization rate of 78.5% was 1.7 percentage points below the long-run average from 1972 through 2012.
The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) registered 50.7% in April, a 0.6 percentage point decrease from March’s reading. Any reading above 50.0% indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding. Fourteen of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in April, including computer & electronic products; electrical equipment, appliances & components; fabricated metal products; machinery; miscellaneous manufacturing; petroleum & coal products; plastics & rubber products; primary metals; and transportation equipment. Chemical products were included in those reporting contractions.
The Consumer Confidence Index improved from 61.9 in March to 68.1 in April as concerns seemingly abated over the federal government sequester and increased payroll taxes. Compared to March, Americans in April had greater optimism regarding the six-month economic outlook.
New orders for manufactured durable goods registered $216.0 billion in March, representing a 5.8% decrease from February. The weakening was led by transportation equipment, which retreated by $11.1 billion from February to March with nondefense aircraft and parts accounting for the majority of the detraction. March’s shipments of manufactured durable goods expanded by 0.5% from the reading in February, to $230.4 billion, led by a $1.6 billion improvement in transportation equipment.
Following annual growth of 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2012, early estimates suggest that gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 2.5% in the first quarter of 2013 when compared to the prior quarter. Driving the growth were exports, personal spending, private inventory investments, private residential expenditures, and nonresidential outlays for fixed assets such as structures and equipment.
The chemical and allied products producer price index increased to 283.8 in March from 282.9 in February.