Factory production in U.S. increases less than forecast

Capacity Utilization

Today’s Fed report also showed that capacity utilization, which measures the amount of a plant that is in use, climbed to 78.3% from 77.9% the prior month.

Mining production, which includes oil drilling, rose 0.2% after a 0.6% gain. Utility output jumped 4.4%, the most since March, after falling for five straight months.

The average temperature last month was 67.3 degrees Fahrenheit (19.6 Celsius), making it the sixth-warmest September on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the agency’s index on residential energy demand, September was 9% above average.

Factory production of non-durable goods declined 0.3% in September, the third straight decrease. Output of textiles dropped 0.7%, while production of chemicals fell 0.6%.

Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker by revenue, this month reported profit that trailed analysts’ estimates amid higher costs and lower sales in the unit that makes epoxy, used in plywood and can linings.

Vehicle Production

Production of motor vehicles and parts climbed 2% after a rising 5.2% a month earlier, today’s report showed. Automaker assemblies rose to an 11.55 million annualized rate in September, the most since June 2006. Manufacturing excluding autos and parts was unchanged following a 0.2% gain a month earlier.

Demand for motor vehicles has been a bright spot for manufacturers, with cars and light trucks selling at a 15.2 million annualized rate in September after climbing in August at the fastest pace since 2007, figures from Ward’s Automotive Group showed.

Ford Motor Co. earned a $2.3 billion profit in North America in the third quarter and raised its forecasts for pretax profit and operating margin for the full year. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said last week that its automotive sales rose 12% to $33.9 billion. It also earned a rare profit on overseas operations on rising demand for Focus compact cars in China and B-Max vans in Europe.

Slow, Steady

Eaton Corp., which makes electrical equipment for buildings and hydraulics for machinery, is seeing steady, albeit slow, improvement in the U.S. economy, Chief Executive Officer Sandy Cutler said during an Oct. 25 conference call. The U.S. accounted for about half of Eaton’s revenue in 2012.

“As we see some of the activity we’re seeing now, and I think the whole backdrop to this is this is a gradually improving economy,” Cutler said. “It’s not one that’s rocketing back here in the U.S.”

Cutler forecast an increase in demand in its markets of as much as 4% next year, spurred by economic recovery in Europe.

“The biggest turnaround in a region is likely be Europe,” Cutler said in an Oct. 25 telephone interview. “Whether you think growth’s a half-point positive or a point positive, it’s sure going to be better than negative 1% for a couple of years in a row.”

A recovery in the company’s orders in the third quarter has marked a “change in momentum,” Cutler said. Eaton, which is based in Dublin and operates from Cleveland, is forecasting zero growth for its markets this year, he said.


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