Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON - U.S. industrial production rose in November as the 12th consecutive monthly gain in manufacturing offset a decline in utility demand, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.

Output from factories, mines, and utilities rose 0.3% last month after gaining a revised 0.8% during October, previously reported as an increase of 0.6%. Analysts had expected a 0.3% increase for November.

The plant-use rate, which measures industrial capacity put to work, was 81% in November, virtually the same as in October, which previously was reported as 80.7%. The rate for November and October was the highest since 81.5% in October 1998. Analysts had expected a November reading of 80.6%.

"The economy is still going strong," said Cynthia Latta, an economist at Standard & Poor's DRI in Lexington, Mass. "The drop in utility output was simply a weather phenomenon."

Production is likely to increase further. A report Wednesday by the Commerce Department showed U.S. businesses stockpiled goods at the slowest pace in six months as sales rose in October. Inventories rose 0.2%, to $1.13 trillion, after a 0.4% increase in September. Business sales increased 0.5%, to $846.68 billion, in October after a decline of 0.2% in September.

Among major groups, manufacturing output advanced 0.5% last month, after a 0.8% October increase. Mining output went up 0.7%, after rising 0.8% the month before. Output by utilities fell 2.3%, after a 1.9% October gain.

Based on the revised figures, both overall industrial production and manufacturing grew in October at the fastest pace since August 1998, when output grew 1.8% and manufacturing 2% in a rebound from a two-month-long strike at General Motors Corp. factories. Demand for iron and steel as well as semiconductors and communications equipment boosted manufacturing output. Production of computers and office equipment rose 2.1% last month after rising 3.3% the month before.

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