WASHINGTON, April 16 — American manufacturing was flat in March, which was good news after sharp declines in the prior two months that combined for a dismal first quarter, the Federal Reserve reported today.
That weak performance has contributed to fears about a slowing US economy, as fuel from the late 2017 tax cuts faded and as the auto industry continues to struggle. It also dragged overall industrial production down slightly in the month.
Manufacturing fell 1.1 per cent in the first three months of the year compared to the same period of 2018, the Fed reported. However, output in March was still 1.0 per cent higher than a year earlier.
The production of motor parts and vehicles plunged 2.5 per cent in the month and collapsed 12.8 per cent in the first quarter, according to the data, meaning it is 4.5 per cent below the March 2018 output level.
Wood products also fell more than two per cent compared to February, while only computer and electronic products and primary metals had gains of over one per cent in the latest month.
Overall industrial output fell 0.3 per cent in the first quarter, after a 0.1 per cent dip last month, but is up 2.8 per cent compared to March 2018.
Economists had been expecting a 0.2 per cent gain for the month.
Mining output, including oil, gas and coal production, fell 0.8 per cent compared to the prior month, but is 10.5 per cent higher year-over-year.
The volatile utilities sector edged up 0.2 per cent after a surge in February, and is 3.8 per cent higher than the same period a year ago.
Industrial capacity in use in use in March slipped to 78.8 per cent due to a decline in utilisation for durable manufacturing, most notably in motor vehicles and parts, which fell a stunning two percentage points to 76.3 per cent in a single month. — AFP