Superstorm Sandy depressed U.S. industrial output in October, the latest indication that the storm could temporarily slow the economy, but production of machinery and equipment declined sharply, reflecting a more cautious outlook among businesses.
The Federal Reserve (Fed) reported Friday that industrial production fell 0.4 percent last month, following a 0.2 percent gain in September. Excluding the impact from Sandy, output at U.S. factories, mines, and utilities would have risen about 0.6 percent.
Factory output, the most important category in the report, fell 0.9 percent. Excluding affects from the storm, it would have been unchanged, the Fed said. Utility output fell 0.1 percent, while mining, which includes oil and natural-gas production, gained 1.5 percent.
Manufacturing has weakened since last spring, partly because companies have reduced purchases of long-lasting goods that signal investment plans. The trend continued in October, with production of machinery falling 1.9 percent and production of electrical gear and appliances dropping 1.4 percent.
Many businesses are concerned about tax increases and federal spending cuts—known as the “fiscal cliff”—that will take effect in January unless Congress reaches a budget deal before then.
Superstorm Sandy also has hurt the economy, though most economists expect its impact to fade in the coming weeks.