US industrial output rises despite Harvey, Irma hits

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Washington (AFP)

Output at US factories rebounded in September after August's steep plunge from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday.

Still, economic disruption from the back-to-back hurricanes of September and August weighed on industrial production, resulting in a decline for the third quarter, according to the central bank.

September's gain reflected a rise in oil and gas production after Harvey idled much of the nation's Gulf Coast energy hub in August.

Economists say the storms, which shut down oil production and disrupted millions of lives, will result in a temporary slowdown in economic activity but they expect a rebound in the final quarter of 2017.

According to the Fed, total industrial production rose by 0.3 percent in September, though August was revised upward by 0.2 points to a decline of 0.7 percent. The September result marginally overshot analyst expectations, which called for a 0.2 percent increase.

The Fed estimated that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma held down growth at factories by 0.25 percentage points in September. And for the quarter, industrial production declined at an annual rate of 1.5 percent.

Excluding the effects of the hurricanes, the index would have risen by "at least" 0.5 percent, according the Fed.

Meanwhile, industrial capacity in use recovered slightly from August's decline, rising 0.2 points to 76 percent, in line with analyst expectations still significantly below the level July's level of 76.5 percent from before the storms.

The mining sector saw a 0.4 percent rise for the month, reflecting the return of oil and gas production in the Gulf Coast. All other mining sectors posted losses.

The Fed's industrial output index does not reflect activity in US territories such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and so September's results did not account for the affects of Hurricane Maria.