March industrial production (ex-construction) saw its best month so far in 2018. Even so, a surprisingly large 1.2 percent jump in output versus February only reversed a portion of the 2.2 percent decline recorded in the first two months of the year. Annual growth was 3.6 percent, up from 2.5 percent but still short of January's 4.4 percent.
The monthly headline bounce reflected rebounds in most of the major production categories following a poor mid-quarter. Hence, consumer goods climbed 2.5 percent after a 2.3 percent drop, capital goods gained 0.8 percent following a 1.2 percent decline and intermediates increased 0.7 percent after a 1.4 percent decrease. Energy was up a further 1.3 percent following a bad weather-inspired 8.3 percent surge last time.
The March data leave overall industrial production last quarter flat at its level in the fourth quarter when it rose a respectable 0.8 percent. Fortunately, the drag on GDP growth was offset by stronger activity in services and agriculture. Looking ahead, with the April PMI (53.5) falling to its weakest mark since January 2017 and within that, growth of new orders hitting an 18-month trough, there would seem to be only limited prospects of any significant pick-up in goods output this quarter.