U.S. factory production rose in December for the second straight month, buoyed by more output of autos, electronics and business equipment.
The Federal Reserve said factory output increased 0.8 percent last month compared with November. That followed a 1.3 percent rise in November, which reflected a rebound from Superstorm Sandy.
Total industrial production increased 0.3 percent in December following a 1 percent rise in November. Production slowed mostly because utility output dropped 4.8 percent, reflecting unseasonably warm weather.
Economists polled by Briefing.com predicted production rose by 0.2 percent in December and capacity utilization stood at 78.5 percent. In November,production grew by 1.1 percent and utilization came in at 78.4 percent.
The back-to-back gains in factory output offered some hope that manufacturing could be picking up after a weak year. One area that has been notable strong is the auto industry, which ended 2012 with its best sales in five years. Production of autos and parts grew 2.6 percent in December.