The latest numbers about the health of the U.S. economy showed continued growth when it comes to industrial production, housing starts, and retail sales, indicating increasing energy for the first part of the second quarter.
Industrial Production Signals ‘Strong Momentum’
Industrial production rose 0.5% in March from the month before after increasing 1% in February, according to the Federal Reserve. This measure of the total output from the nation’s factories, mines and utilities advanced at a 4.5% annual rate for the first quarter as a whole.
After climbing 1.5% in February, manufacturing production edged up just 0.1% in March, the weakest performance since December. Mining output rose 1%, mostly as a result of gains in oil and gas extraction and in support activities for mining. The index for utilities jumped 3% after being suppressed in February by warmer-than-normal temperatures.
At 107.2% of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 4.3% higher in March than it was a year earlier.
Capacity utilization for the industrial sector moved up 0.3 of a percentage point in March to 78%, a rate that is 1.8 percentage points below its long-run 1972–2017 average.
James Knightly, ING’s chief international economist, tweeted following the report that it showed “the U.S. economy has strong momentum at start of the second quarter of 2018.”
Housing Starts up Nearly 2%
Gains in multifamily production pushed housing starts up 1.9% in March from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.32 million units, according to the Commerce Department.
Multifamily production rose 14.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 452,000 units, its highest reading since December 2016. Single-family starts, however, fell 3.7% to 867,000 units.
“Builders are optimistic about future demand for housing and are ramping up production to meet this demand,” said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Randy Noel. “Single-family starts dropped slightly this month, but single-family permits