A newly released report from the Federal Reserve showed U.S. production was largely unchanged in March, keeping in line with February’s performance. More importantly, looking at the first quarter in its totality, industrial production rose at an annualized rate of 5.4% in the first quarter.

Following are a few highlights from the March U.S. industrial production report:

Market Groups

The production of consumer goods fell 0.2 percent in March; for the first quarter, output moved up at an annual rate of 2.4 percent. The index for durable consumer goods decreased 0.5 percent in March, primarily as a result of declines in automotive products and in appliances, furniture, and carpeting. Even so, the output of durable consumer goods increased at an annual rate of 17.6 percent in the first quarter. The production of nondurable consumer goods decreased 0.2 percent in March; the output of non-energy nondurable consumer goods edged down 0.1 percent—all of its major components except miscellaneous consumer nondurables decreased—while the index for consumer energy products declined 0.3 percent.

The production of business equipment moved up 0.2 percent in March, its smallest gain since June 2011; from July 2011 through February 2012, this index had advanced more than 1 percent per month on average. Gains in transit equipment and in industrial and other equipment in March more than offset a pullback of 0.9 percent in the production of information processing equipment. In the first quarter, the output of business equipment advanced at an annual rate of 15.9 percent.

The index for defense and space equipment declined 0.7 percent in March after having gained 2.0 percent in February. This category posted an increase of 5.1 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter.
The production of construction supplies fell 1.3 percent in March after having advanced 1.9 percent in February. For the first quarter, construction supplies recorded an increase of 11.5 percent at an annual rate, its largest gain in nearly two years. Nevertheless, production remained about 20 percent below its pre-recession level.

The output of materials to be further processed in the industrial sector rose 0.2 percent in March and increased at an annual rate of 5.1 percent in the first quarter. The index for durable materials was down 0.3 percent in March, its first decrease since April 2011: The output of consumer parts was unchanged and the production of equipment parts moved up 0.4 percent, but the index for other durable materials fell 0.9 percent. Consumer parts posted an increase of 34.7 percent in the first quarter, its largest advance since the second quarter of 2010. The production of nondurable materials edged up 0.1 percent in March; a gain in chemical materials was mostly offset by a loss in paper materials. The output index for energy materials rose 0.8 percent after three months of declines.

Industry Groups

Manufacturing output declined 0.2 percent in March but increased at an annual rate of 10.4 percent in the first quarter—the largest gain since the second quarter of 2010. Capacity utilization for manufacturing in March moved down slightly to 77.8 percent, a rate 14 percentage points above its trough in June 2009 but still 1 percentage point below its long-run average.

Within manufacturing, the output of durable goods declined 0.2 percent in March after having gained 1.2 percent in February. Among durables, the largest decreases in March were posted by nonmetallic mineral products, primary metals, and furniture and related products, while moderate gains were recorded by wood products, machinery, motor vehicles and parts, and miscellaneous manufacturing. For the first quarter as a whole, durable goods manufacturing increased at an annual rate of 15.6 percent, with large gains for all of its major components.

Mining production edged up 0.2 percent in March after having dropped 4 percent in February. Capacity utilization in mining inched up to 87.5 percent in March and was less than half a percentage point above its long-run average. The output of utilities increased 1.5 percent after having risen only 0.1 percent in February. The operating rate for utilities in March improved to 73.1 percent but still remained more than 4.5 percentage points below its average during 2011.

The complete April U.S. industrial production report is available online.