Overall industrial production increased 0.7% for March, according to a Federal Reserve report (link opens as PDF) released today.
While March's top-line number exceeded expectations in and of itself, the growth was doubly impressive considering February's sharp upwardly revised growth, from 0.6% to 1.2%. Analysts had expected significantly smaller 0.4% growth for March. Compared to March 2013, production is up 3.8%.
Every major market group clocked production growth for March, with the materials group's 0.9% making the largest move. Final products advanced 0.7%, while nonindustrial supplies increased 0.5%.
Breaking production down by industries, mining and utilities both notched strong growth, up 1.5% and 1%, respectively. Manufacturing made a relatively smaller 0.5% production gain, but its boost was exactly in line with analyst expectations.
Higher factory output is a sign of greater demand by businesses and consumers. The gains over the past two months point to a rebound after a winter slowdown in January and December stalled growth across the economy.
Overall capacity utilization added on 0.4 percentage points from February's report to hit 79.2%. Analysts had expected a more subdued rate of 78.7%, but a sharp 0.9-point rise for mining to 89.1% helped push overall rates higher.
-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report. link