At 101.6% of its 2002 average, industrial output in March was 4%above its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization--a gauge ofslack in the economy--advanced 0.2 percentage point to 73.2%, arate 7.4 percentage points below its average from 1972 to 2009, but3.7 percentage points above the rate from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, consumer goods declined 0.2% in March. However,output in the first quarter rose at an annual rate of 4.9%, and theindex in March was 3.3% above its year-earlier level. Also inMarch, the production of consumer durables strengthened by 2%,supported by a jump in automotive products. Posting less of a jump,the output of non-energy non-durables moved up 0.2%, while theproduction of consumer energy products actually contracted 3.7%.According to the Federal Reserve, the gain in non-energynon-durables reflected increases in food, tobacco and clothing,which more than offset decreases in both chemical and paperproducts. Meanwhile, the index for consumer nondurable energyproducts was weighed down in March by the weakness in residentialsales by utilities.

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