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US factory output rises a solid 0.6 percent in November

WASHINGTON -- U.S. factories increased output in November for the fourth straight month, led by a surge in auto production. The gains show manufacturing is strengthening and could help boost economic growth at the end of the year.

Factory production rose 0.6 percent in November after a 0.5-percent gain in October, the Federal Reserve said Monday.

Production of motor vehicles and parts increased 3.4 percent, rebounding from a 1.3-percent decline in October. Factories also stepped up production of home electronics and chemical products.

Industrial production, which includes manufacturing, mining and utilities, rose 1.1 percent in November. It was the fourth straight gain.

Colder-than-average temperatures drove a 3.9-percent surge in utility production. Mining output jumped 1.7 percent to reverse a similar decline in October.

Overall production for the first time surpassed the pre-recession peak set in December 2007, the month the Great Recession began. Output is now 21 percent above its recession low hit in June 2009, the month the downturn ended.

The report of healthier output at U.S. factories helped drive a rally on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average soared more than 160 points in the first hour of trading.

Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the gains in mining and utilities can be volatile. He noted that the best guide of the underlying trend is manufacturing output.

“It suggests that producers are benefiting from stronger demand at home and overseas,” Dales said.

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