Industrial Growth|Slows to 0.1 Percent

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Industrial growth slowed to 0.1 percent in February after a nearly 1 percent growth the month before, the Federal Reserve announced Monday, but experts pointed to the severe winter storms that gripped the Northeast last month, with one saying that “circumstances are too fuzzy” to take the figures at face value and that “the recovery continues.”

     “There is not enough of a drop to suggest that this is a weakening,” Joe Minarik from the Committee for Economic Development said in phone interview. “It seems to be a continuation of the recovery from a very serious economic downturn.”
     Minarik added that even with the decline in production, the industrial sector is too small a portion of the economy to have a serious effect on employment.
     The report comes less than a week after the Census Bureau announced a 0.3 percent increase in February retail sales, which defied predictions of a decline.
     A 4.4 percent decline in the production of cars and car parts drove part of the reduction, and follows concerns over the safety of Toyota cars.
     A 0.3 percent boost in materials drove the weak industrial growth in February, building on a stronger 0.8 percent increase the month before. Manufacturing ate away at gains, shrinking by 0.2 percent in February after a nearly 1 percent increase the month prior.
     The industry is now running at 69 percent capacity.
     While many industries continued to experience growth, the figures showed slow-down trends as being widespread.
     Clothing production shrank by 0.2 percent after a 5.3 percent gain in January and construction supplies slipped to a weaker 0.3 percent growth after expanding 1.1 percent the month before. The production of business supplies dropped 0.1 percent, reversing an eight-month growth trend.
     Growth in defense and space equipment production slowed to 1.3 percent in February, after a 1.8 percent gain the month before.
     Some raw materials saw more intense growth.
     Mining got a boost from 1.1 percent growth in January to 2 percent growth in February.
     And petroleum and coal production turned a nearly 1 percent loss in January into a 2.2 percent gain in February.
     Overall, industrial production increased by 1.7 percent over the past year.

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