(MENAFN - Saudi Press Agency) Industrial production from U.S. factories, utilities, and mines was flat in January after rising 1 percent the previous month, but factories increased output, helping to power the economy, the government reported Wednesday.
The Federal Reserve (Fed) said factory output increased 0.7 percent last month after jumping 1.5 percent in December, the biggest monthly gain in five years. Utility output fell 2.5 percent in January, the second consecutive sharp decline due to an unusually warm winter that has reduced home heating demand. Mining production also declined.
Factory output has risen 16.7 percent from its low point during the recession, in June 2009. However, it is still 7.1 percent below its December 2007 peak.
Two strong months of manufacturing growth are among the encouraging signs that the economy could grow at a steady pace this year. The gains in manufacturing coincide with five consecutive months of solid job creation, which has lowered the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent.
But several factors could slow growth this year. Gasoline prices are rising again, financial turmoil in Europe could weaken demand for U.S. exports, and another year of weak pay increases could force consumers to reduce spending, which accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.