Industrial Production Declined 0.1% in January
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Implications:  Industrial production started 2024 off on a weak note, declining 0.1% in January.  Notably, the Federal Reserve highlighted that worse than expected winter weather had big impacts on the January data.  Looking at the details, the manufacturing sector was the biggest weak spot in today’s report, dropping 0.5%, largely driven by non-auto manufacturing, which we think of as a “core” version of industrial production and which fell 0.6%.  Meanwhile, auto production declined 0.1% as well. The brightest manufacturing news in the report was that the production of high-tech equipment rose 1.3% in January and is up 19.8% in the past year, by far the strongest growth of any major category.  This likely reflects investment in AI as well as the reshoring of semiconductor production, which remains temporarily strong due to the CHIPS Act, despite broader weakness in the industrial sector.  The mining sector also fell in January, dropping 2.3%, the largest monthly decline since 2021.  Broad-based weakness in oil and gas extraction, mineral extraction, and the drilling of new wells all contributed.  Finally, the utilities sector (which is volatile and largely dependent on weather), posted a gain of 5.9% in January as unusually cold weather drove a surge in demand for home heating.  In other manufacturing news this morning, the Philadelphia Fed Index, a measure of factory sentiment in that region, rose to +5.2 in February from -10.6 in January. Meanwhile, the Empire State Index, its counterpart for the New York region also rebounded, rising to -2.4 in February from -43.7 in January. Finally in housing news, the NAHB Housing Index, a measure of homebuilder sentiment, rose to 48 in February from 44 in January.  This is the third gain in a row and coincides with the recent moderation in mortgage rates as markets begin to anticipate rate cuts from the Federal Reserve in 2024.  That said, a reading below 50 signals that a greater number of builders view conditions as poor versus good.

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Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2024 @ 12:14 PM

These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.