US industrial output caught in traffic jam

 
Ben Southwood
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US MANUFACTURING output started 2013 with a fall, according to data out yesterday, driven by weakness in car production.

Factory production dropped 0.4 per cent in January, Federal Reserve data showed, pushed by the 3.2 per cent crash in car output.

The fact that the decline was coming mainly from one sector, combined with upward revisions to the numbers for November and December, made analysts optimistic that the underlying trend was still positive.

“Given that most of the weakness was due to the give-back in motor vehicle production after the 11 per cent surge in activity during the last two months of 2012, we expect this retreat in industrial output to be temporary,” said Millan Mulraine at TD Securities.

And consumer confidence data, released separately, supported a more hopeful view. The Thomson Reuters consumer confidence index climbed to 76.3 in February from 73.8 in January, after job gains.