Implications: Industrial production picked up pace in February following January's breather. The headline series rose 1.1% in February, the fastest monthly pace of growth in four months, as most major categories showed gains. More importantly, industrial production has increased 4.3% in the past year, the largest 12-month increase since early 2011. And the gains in February would have been even larger but for warmer than usual weather that pushed down utilities production 4.7%. Meanwhile, mining jumped 4.3% in February – the largest monthly increase since late 2008 - on the back of strong gains in oil and gas extractions. In the past year, mining production is up 9.7%. Drilling slowed in the second half of 2017, most likely associated with hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but remains up 27.2% from a year ago. In addition, the rig count has continued to rise in recent weeks, suggesting gains in mining production in the months ahead. In other recent factory news this morning, the Empire State index, a measure of manufacturing sentiment in New York, rose to a very healthy 22.5 in March from 13.1 in February. Meanwhile, the Philly Fed index, its counterpart among East Coast manufacturers, declined modestly to a still strong 22.3 in March from 25.8 in February, signaling optimism in the region. On the inflation front, import prices rose 0.4% in February while export prices increased 0.2%. In the past year, import prices are up 3.5% while export prices have increased 3.3%, reinforcing other recent data showing a rising trend in inflation.
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