The U.S. Industrial Production Index continued to climb in March 2013, reaching 99.5, according to the latest retail report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The last time the index had reached this level was in March 2008.
March’s total industrial production, which encompasses manufacturing, mining, and utilities, was 0.4 percent higher than it was in February and grew 3.5 percent since March 2012. The increase in March followed a 1.1 percent month-to-month jump in February. These jumps have put the current index up by 1.5 percent since the beginning of the year, when the index stood at 98. The first three months of 2013 have a combined index that is 2.6 percent higher than the same period in 2012.
The manufacturing index, however, inched down 0.1 percent to 95.7 in March, after increasing almost 1 percent in February. Output is slowing because companies are trying to limit their inventories ahead of any impact of sequestration, Bloomberg reports. “The details look pretty weak, but that came after strength in February. Manufacturing will certainly continue to grow,” said James O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics and the second-best industrial production forecaster over the past two years, according to Bloomberg.
Mining was also down in March, falling by 0.2 percent to 115.9. Despite the drop, the current index is still 0.7 percent higher than it was at the beginning of 2013, because utilities experienced a 5.3 percent jump to 105.8 in March. That particular index has been steeply increasing for the past three months. “Colder-than-normal temperatures drove the biggest gain in electricity and natural-gas use in six years,” Bloomberg said.