The increase in output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities came after industrial production was flat in December, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday. While unhappy about that, economists were still hopeful that the lackluster performance seen in December was a temporary rough patch and that activity would bounce back in January.
The pickup in industrial production last month matched analysts' expectations and marked the biggest increase since November. For all of 2003, industrial activity rose by 0.2 percent, a big improvement from the 0.6 percent decline registered in 2002. Last year marked the first year that industrial production was in positive territory since 2000, when the economy was still enjoying a record economic expansion.