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February industrial production rises, manufacturing dips

WASHINGTON - Industrial production edged up 0.1 percent in February, beating expectations and marking the eighth straight monthly increase. The manufacturing sector - for months a rare bright spot in the economy - produced less because of winter storms but is expected to rebound in March.

The Federal Reserve said yesterday that manufacturing, the index's largest component, fell 0.2 percent. Mining and utilities rose 2.0 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

Manufacturing took a hit from winter storms that shut down most of the Northeast in February. The storms reduced hours worked at factories and workers' earnings. Still, the severe weather increased demand for heating energy, boosting mining and utility production.

The February figure for industrial production was a return to more measured gains after January's 0.9 percent increase. The index's consistent upward trend suggests that economic improvement is durable, if modest.

Economists said the recovery will gain momentum only if consumer demand increases.

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