Last week, the Federal Reserve reported U.S. industrial production decreased 0.3% in December, marking the third monthly drop in the last 4 months. In December, a 0.2% uptick in manufacturing production and 1.3% increase in mining was more than offset by a 5.6% drop in utilities output.
The Fed notes “The drop for utilities resulted from a large decrease in demand for heating, as unseasonably warm weather in December followed unseasonably cold weather in November. For the fourth quarter as a whole, total industrial production moved down at an annual rate of 0.5 percent.”
On a more positive note, the Census Bureau reported last week that new housing starts in the United States surged to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.608 million units in December, up nearly 17 percent from November and the highest level in 13 years. The increase was driven by an 11.2% increase in single-unit housing starts and a 30% spike in multi-unit starts. New building permits eased slightly to 1.416 million units SAAR.
Another key economic release from last week showed U.S. retail sales increased 0.3% in December, largely in line with expectations and reflecting broad based gains including building materials (+1.4%), gas stations (+2.8%), clothing (+1.6%), and general merchandise (+0.6%). Sales of motor vehicles and parts were the exception, declining 1.3% last month. Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.7% in Dec.