February 23, 2024

Industrial Output and Housing Starts Fell in April

Industrial output was flat in April as the earthquake in Japan in March interrupted the supply of parts to auto makers, a Federal Reserve report said on Tuesday.

The report added to negative economic data after the Commerce Department said housing construction and permits for new construction also declined in April.

Factory production fell 0.4 percent in April, its first decline in 10 months, the Fed said. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, factory production rose 0.2 percent in April.

Manufacturing makes up almost 75 percent of U.S. industrial production.

Analysts had expected a 0.4 percent rise in overall output, which was buoyed by increases of 0.8 percent in mining and 1.7 percent in utilities.

Total industrial production is 5 percent above its year-ago level, the Federal Reserve said.

Capacity use, a measure of how close firms are to running their facilities at maximum capability, fell unexpectedly to 76.9 percent in April from a downwardly revised 77 percent in March. Analysts were expecting capacity use to rise to 77.6.

Housing starts and permits for future home construction fell in April as an overabundance of homes on the market discouraged builders from taking on new projects.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday housing starts dropped 10.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 523,000 units. March’s starts were revised up to a 585,000-unit pace from the previously reported rate of 549,000 units.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a 568,000-unit rate. Compared with April of last year, residential construction was down 23.9 percent, the largest decline since October 2009.

Residential construction is being crowded out by an oversupply of used homes on the market — foreclosed properties in particular, which sell well below their value.

Home builders’ sentiment was flat in May, the National Association of Home Builders said on Monday.

Though builders expected a modest improvement in sales during the spring, they expected conditions to weaken in the next six months.

Groundbreaking last month was depressed by a 24.1 percent tumble in multifamily homes, a volatile category where starts for buildings with five or more units dropped 28.3 percent. Single-family home construction fell 5.1 percent.

New building permits dropped 4 percent to a 551,000-unit annual pace last month. April’s permits were revised down to a 574,000-unit rate while economists had expected overall building permits in April to remain unchanged at the previously reported 585,000-unit pace.

Permits were held down last month by an 8.8 percent decline in the multifamily segment. Permits to build single-family homes slipped 1.8 percent.

New home completions rose 4.1 percent to 554,000 units in April.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5126b6bd2e51f75055f977108a135281

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