U.S. industry shows some vigor, but housing soft
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. industrial production rose at a faster-than-expected clip in March, the latest sign the economy was gaining momentum.
Groundbreaking for new homes also increased but remained well below the post-recession peak hit in November, signaling the drag the housing market is placing on the economy.
Output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose 0.7 percent last month after an upwardly revised gain of 1.2 percent in February, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.
Economists had expected industrial production to rise 0.5 percent. Manufacturing output gained 0.5 percent, while production at mines rose 1.5 percent and utilities' output increased 1.0 percent.
"The overall tone of this report was very encouraging, with the buoyancy in the manufacturing sector reaffirming our very constructive view on the economic growth performance during the last few months of the quarter," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed housing starts failed to bounce back as strongly as expected after being weighed down by unusually harsh winter weather.
Groundbreaking activity increased 2.8 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000. Economists, however, expected a rise to a 973,000-unit rate.
Compared to March last year, starts were down 5.9 percent, the biggest decline since April 2011. Continued...