Economic Report: U.S. industrial production up for third straight month on strength in autos

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Excluding autos, manufacturing was flat in August, the Fed said.

The numbers: Industrial production rose 0.4% in August, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. This is the third monthly increase. The gain was above Wall Street expectations of a 0.3% increase. Over the past year, output is up 4.9%.

What happened: In August, manufacturing rose 0.2% on the back of a 4% rise in production of motor vehicles and parts. Excluding autos, manufacturing was flat in August. Overall, the gains in output were widespread, with only nonindustrial supply production declining. Utility output rose 1.2% after a 0.1% gain in July.

Capacity utilization rose to 78.1% in August, the highest rate since April. The capacity utilization rate reflects the limits to operating the nation’s factories, mines and utilities. It’s still below pre-recession levels, above 80%, that could fan production costs and prices.

Big picture: Manufacturing activity remains strong despite rising trade tensions. Some economists are worried that the stronger dollar may soon curb exports. But others argue President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies are helping U.S. manufacturers.

Market reaction: Stocks were set to open higher Friday with the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.53%  within striking distance of record territory.

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