US factory output fell again in March

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output dropped in March for the second straight month as manufacturers churned out fewer cars, metal parts and machinery.

Factory production fell 0.3 percent, following a 0.1 percent drop in February, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

The figures suggest that American manufacturers are still struggling with the triple whammy of weak overseas growth, the strong dollar and sluggish consumer and business spending at home. Automakers cut back sharply, as sales slowed last month after a record 2015.

Another factory report also released Friday suggested that goods production in the U.S. is stabilizing. The New York Federal Reserve’s Empire State index in April rose to its highest level in more than a year.

But the Fed’s industrial production report, a direct measure of output rather than a survey, points in the other direction.

A stronger dollar, compared with foreign currencies, makes U.S. products more expensive overseas and imports cheaper. Meanwhile, U.S. consumers have been reluctant to spend freely this year, despite steady job gains and lower prices at the gas pump.

Overall industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, fell 0.6 percent for the second straight month. Amid lower oil prices, a sharp drop in oil and gas drilling activity pulled down mining output 2.9 percent.

That was the sharpest fall in mining output since September 2008, when oil and gas production was held back by hurricanes. Mining was also hurt by a substantial decline in coal output, which is suffering from lower natural gas prices. Several large coal companies have filed for bankruptcy in recent weeks.


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