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US factory output increases for 5th straight month

US factory output increases for 5th straight month

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WASHINGTON — U.S. factory output grew for the fifth straight month in November, adding to evidence that manufacturing remains an engine of economic growth.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that output by the nation’s factories, utilities and mines increased 0.4 percent last month, after falling 0.2 percent in October.

Factories produced 0.3 percent more goods for consumers and businesses, after boosting output by the same amount a month earlier. The strongest factory gains came from big-ticket items expected to last for several years.

Separately, the Labor Department reported that inflation remained tame with consumer prices barely increasing in November. Small increases in food and energy costs pushed the Consumer Price Index up 0.1 percent.

Excluding food and energy costs, core consumer prices rose 0.1 percent, the first increase in four months. In the past year, the core index rose 0.8 percent. That’s slightly higher than October’s 0.6 percent annual increase, which was the lowest since the index began in 1957.

Low prices are attracting consumers to stores and helping boost the economy. Retail sales in November rose 0.8 percent — the fifth straight monthly gain. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Manufacturing is the largest single component of industrial production. It has been a bright spot through most of the recovery. November’s report confirms that the sector remains strong.

Output by auto factories fell unexpectedly. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, factory production jumped in October by 0.7 percent.

All other categories of long-lasting durable goods posted increases. Business equipment, construction supplies and business supplies each grew 0.9 percent.

More big-ticket consumer items rolled off assembly lines. Economist have worried that high unemployment and a weak housing market would stifle demand for goods such as home electronics, appliances and furniture. November’s gains in those areas could reassure them that a recovery in the consumer sector is under way.

Production by utilities rose 1.9 percent last month, while mines produced 0.1 percent less.

U.S. factories operated at 75.2 percent of their capacity in November, up from 74.9 percent in October.

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