Today’s Fed report also showed that capacity utilization, which measures the amount of a plant that is in use, climbed to 78.5% from 78.3% the prior month.
Utility output jumped 5.3%, the biggest gain since February 2007, after a 2.5% advance the previous month.
Mining production, which includes oil drilling, decreased 0.2%.
Businesses benefiting from gains in orders include Greenbrier, a Lake Oswego, Oregon-based rail-car maker. First- half results were ahead of expectations and the company is “looking forward to a solid second half” of the year, Chief Executive Officer William Furman said in an April 4 earnings conference call.
“There is demand out there,” Furman said on the teleconference. “We’re pretty pleased about the quarter’s momentum and the momentum going forward into the third quarter.”
The rebound in housing is underpinning demand. Builders broke ground on 1.04 million houses at an annualized rate in March, the most since June 2008, a Commerce Department report showed today. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 930,000 pace.
Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, is among businesses watching economic developments in the U.S. and overseas for signs of improvement.
“While we’re encouraged by some recent improvements in economic indicators, there are still uncertainties in the world and the company is ready for any circumstances,” Doug Oberhelman, chief executive officer of Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar, said in a statement on April 10.
The economy probably grew at a 3% annualized rate from January through March, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists from April 5 to April 9. The expansion will cool this quarter, to a 1.5% pace, then reaccelerate to an average 2.4% rate in the last six months of 2013.