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Industrial output inches up

A worker on a Ford assembly line. Production of autos and auto parts surged 2.9 percent in March.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press/File

A worker on a Ford assembly line. Production of autos and auto parts surged 2.9 percent in March.

WASHINGTON — US industrial output rose in March as cold weather kept utilities busy generating heat and a surge in auto production helped offset broader weakness in manufacturing.

Production at the nation’s factories, mines, and utilities rose 0.4 percent in March from February, the Federal Reserve said.

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Utility output rose 5.3 percent, as Americans had to use more heat during a colder-than-normal March.

And production of autos and auto parts surged 2.9 percent, the second straight monthly gain. Auto production is up 10.2 percent over the past year.

Overall factory production slipped 0.1 percent, dragged down by falling metal production and clothing. Still, consumer goods climbed 1.1 percent, matching February’s gain. And business equipment showed a slight increase.

For the January-March quarter, total industrial production as well as manufacturing are both up over 5 percent annualized, noted Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets

Still, recent reports from the nation’s factories have been disappointing. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Monday that manufacturing growth in New York slowed this month. And a survey from the Institute for Supply Management showed that manufacturing nationwide expanded more slowly in March than it did in February.

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