Industrial production in U.S. fell in August by most since 2009

Auto Sales

Autos, a source of manufacturing strength, sold at a 14.46 million annual rate last month, the fastest since the surge in August 2009 tied to the government’s “cash-for-clunkers” program. They were up from a 14.05 million pace in July, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Group.

Today’s Fed report also showed output of computers and electronic products fell 0.7 percent. Machinery production fell 0.8 percent.

Consumer goods production fell 1.2 percent, while output of business equipment declined 0.2 percent.

The Fed yesterday announced its third round of large-scale asset purchases since 2008. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke for the first time pledged that the Federal Reserve will buy bonds until the economy gets closer to his goals, cementing his place as the Fed’s most innovative chairman and signaling the battle against unemployment eclipses any concerns about inflation for now.

A stagnant labor market may restrain household spending. Employers added 96,000 workers in August after a 141,000 increase in July. Unemployment, which fell to 8.1 percent as more Americans left the labor force, has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch in monthly records going back to 1948.

Foreign Markets

Slower-growing foreign markets will crimp export-related activity at U.S. factories. Exports decreased 1 percent in July as American manufacturers shipped fewer automobiles, metals and consumer goods abroad. Before that, U.S. exports were holding up, rising to a record $185.2 billion in June.

Dow Chemical, the biggest U.S. chemical maker, this month announced a new global business structure as it seeks to reduce costs and respond to softening global market conditions.

“Industries and sectors worldwide are really in the midst of what we consider an incredible challenging environment,” Andrew Liveris, chief executive officer of the Midland, Michigan-based company, told investors at a Sept. 11 conference.

The same day, Dallas-based Texas Instruments, the largest maker of analog chips, said demand in all segments except for wireless is tracking below expectations this quarter.

“Almost all of them are running a little weaker than what we had expected back in July,” Texas Instruments Vice President Ron Slaymaker said in a Sept. 11 teleconference with analysts. “We’re just operating in a weaker demand environment than would be seasonally normal.”

Bloomberg News

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