NEW YORK - A sharp spike in heating demand in March drove US industrial output higher, but auto production fell dramatically in the month, pulling manufacturing lower, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday.
The Industrial Production index jumped 0.5 percent last month, slightly more than the consensus forecast, pushed by the highest increase in utilities output ever recorded: an 8.6 percent surge as colder weather returned after the unseasonably warm February.
But manufacturing output -- a key focus of President Donald Trump's administration -- fell 0.4 percent, after sixth straight months of increases, due to a three percent drop in motor vehicle and parts production, the report said.
Factory output outside of motor vehicles and parts also declined, slipping 0.2 percent compared to February.
Overall manufacturing, which represents more than 70 percent of the Industrial Production index, is still 0.8 percent higher than a year ago, and "increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent in the frist quarter," the report said. Auto output is up 1.3 percent from the same month of last year.
Meanwhile mining production edged up 0.1 percent, a much slower pace than in recent months, with increases in oil and gas offsetting the drop in coal mining, but was 2.9 percent higher than March 2016.
Industrial capacity in use in the month continued its slow by steady rise, moving up to 76.1 percent from 75.7 percent in the prior month.