A slowdown in auto manufacturing growth and natural gas extraction in February left U.S. industrial output unchanged from January, when production rose 0.4 percent, according to the Federal Reserve.
The leveling out of growth reflects the impact of rising fuel prices, a drop-off in demand for U.S. exports and tail-off of restocking. The 1.1 percent decline in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing was partly offset by a 0.6 percent increase in business equipment production.
The production of construction supplies rose 1.1 percent in February, reflecting the gradual improvement of the residential real estate market. Production of energy materials dropped 0.9 percent, the third straight monthly decline
Higher gasoline prices in February pushed down consumer sentiment for the first time since August. The overall index of consumer confidence last month slipped to 74.3 from 75.3 percent, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary reading. Economists expected the index to rise to 76.