Industrial production in U.S. unchanged as utility use drops

Vehicle Sales

Auto sales are holding up. A report yesterday from the Commerce Department showed purchases at car dealerships climbed 1.8% in May, more than twice the 0.7% gain a month earlier. Cars and light trucks sold at a 15.2 million annualized rate in May, the sixth month out of the last seven to exceed the 15 million mark.

Assembly lines turned out 0.2% more business equipment in May and 0.1% less consumer goods. Production of computers and electronic products jumped 1.1% last month.

Machinery production decreased 0.4%, the third straight decline. Output of construction materials also dropped for a third month, falling 0.2% in May.

General Motors Co. is reinvesting about $8 billion a year to boost its global competitiveness, said Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann.

More Progress

“We continue to keep a close eye on the economic situation,” Ammann said at a June 12 conference. “There’s clearly been progress. But I don’t think it’s as strong as some of the asset prices and so on would cause you to believe.”

Capacity utilization, a measure of efficiency, eased to 77.6% from 77.7% the prior month, today’s Fed report showed.

Mining output, which includes oil drilling, rose 0.7% in May after a 1.1% increase, today figures showed.

China’s slowdown and the European recession have kept pressure on global manufacturers including DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co.

“Customers are cautious and the signals continue to be mixed,” said Howard Ungerleider, an executive vice president at Dow, based in Midland, Michigan.

“The good news is right here in the United States, where we do see improvements, although growth still remains at lower levels then we would like,” Ungerleider said at a June 12 conference. “Residential construction is up, but public budget tightening is limiting growth in the commercial sector. Our businesses last year really called for 2013 to be like 2012 and this is proving to be more right than wrong.”

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