US industrial output rose 0.3 percent from a month earlier in December 2018, following a downwardly revised 0.4 percent growth in November and beating market expectations of a 0.2 percent gain. Manufacturing production increased by the most in 10 months and mining activity continued to rise while utilities output contracted sharply.
Manufacturing production advanced 1.1 percent in December, the biggest gain since February, following a meager 0.1 percent rise in November. Within durable manufacturing, motor vehicles and parts posted the largest gain (4.7 percent vs 0.2 percent in November), followed by nonmetallic mineral products (2.8 percent vs -0.9 percent), wood products (1.8 percent vs -0.3 percent), aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment (1.7 percent vs 1.2 percent) and computer and electronic products (1.3 percent vs 0.4 percent). Among nondurables, the index for petroleum and coal products jumped 3.5 percent, reversing a 2.4 percent decline in the previous month. The output of other manufacturing (publishing and logging) increased 0.2 percent.
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Mining output rose 1.5 percent in December (vs 1.1 percent in November), with gains in oil and gas extraction, coal mining, and support activities for mining (mainly oil and gas well drilling).
By contrast, the output of utilities fell 6.3 percent in December (vs 1.3 percent in November), with both electric and gas utilities posting sharp declines, as warmer-than-usual temperatures lowered the demand for heating.
Capacity utilization for the industrial sector rose 0.1 percentage point in December to 78.7 percent, a rate that is 1.1 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2017) average. Capacity utilization for manufacturing jumped 0.7 percentage point in December to 76.5 percent, about 2 percentage points below its long-run average. The utilization rate for mining increased to 94.8 percent and remained well above its long-run average of 87.0 percent. The operating rate for utilities fell to 75.0 percent, a rate that is about 10 percentage points below its long-run average.