U.S. industrial production registers worst month since 2012

U.S. industrial output fell for the third straight month in November, another sign that American manufacturers are under stress.

American industrial production dropped 0.6 percent last month, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday. It was the biggest drop since March 2012. Manufacturing output was flat after expanding 0.3 percent in October.

Utility output plunged 4.3 percent as unusually warm weather reduced demand for heat. Mining production slid 1.1 percent amid continued cutbacks in the oil and gas industry and a big drop in coal mining. Output at manufacturers of cars and auto parts dropped 1 percent last month. Aircraft manufacturing output fell 0.7 percent.

American industry is being hurt by economic weakness overseas and a strong dollar that makes U.S. goods more expensive in foreign markets. Still, the American economy is relatively healthy thanks to solid consumer spending.

The Federal Reserve is expected on Wednesday to raise the short-term interest rate that it has kept near zero for seven years. The hike could push the dollar even higher if increased U.S. rates lure investors away from overseas markets.

The Fed has been encouraged by signs of strength in the American labor market: U.S. unemployment has tumbled to a low 5 percent, and employers are adding a healthy 210,000 jobs a month so far this year.

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