Industrial Production Weakens, Misses Consensus, As Capacity Utilization Peaks

And another contractionary economic data point: Industrial production in April was unchanged M/M on expectations of a 0.4% increase, and following a downward revision to March's 0.7%. Additionally, capacity utilization dropped to 76.9% from 77.4%, and substantially less than the expected 77.6%. And there is your "slack in the economy" redflag that the Fed loves so much, and which traditionally is one of the key variables in determining future monetary loosening. Also, as the chart below shows, we may have well peaked in the recent capacity utilization cycle. As for specific industry groups, there was more weakness than the headline indicates: "The production of consumer goods decreased 0.7 percent in April because of weakness in the output of consumer durable goods. The index for business equipment fell 0.4 percent in April following a loss of 0.5 percent in March. The production index for defense and space equipment was unchanged in April after decreasing 0.3 percent in the previous month. Among nonindustrial supplies, the output of construction supplies declined 0.1 percent in April. The output of materials to be processed further in the industrial sector rose 0.3 percent in April after increasing 0.9 percent in March." The Japan effect is starting be felt.

From the Fed:

Industrial production was unchanged in April after having increased 0.7 percent in March. Output in February is now estimated to have declined 0.3 percent; previously it was reported to have edged up 0.1 percent. In April, manufacturing production fell 0.4 percent after rising for nine consecutive months. Total motor vehicle assemblies dropped from an annual rate of 9.0 million units in March to 7.9 million units in April, mainly because of parts shortages that resulted from the earthquake in Japan. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, factory production rose 0.2 percent in April. The output of mines advanced 0.8 percent, while the output of utilities increased 1.7 percent. At 93.1 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production was 5.0 percent above its year-earlier level. The rate of capacity utilization for total industry edged down 0.1 percentage point to 76.9 percent, a rate 3.5 percentage points below its average from 1972 to 2010.