U.S. factory output rises for fifth month

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. factory output rose for a fifth straight month in December, as manufacturers cranked out more cars and trucks, appliances and processed food. The gains suggest factories gave economic growth a strong boost at the end of the year.

The Federal Reserve says factory production rose 0.4 percent in December. That follows gains of 0.6 percent in both November and October. Automakers increased their production 1.8 percent last month and 10.4 percent year over year.

Overall industrial production, which includes manufacturing, mining and utilities, increased 0.3 percent in December. That's also the fifth straight monthly gain.

Total production increased 3.7 percent over the last 12 months and has surpassed its pre-recession peak. Output is now 22 percent above its recession low hit in June 2009, the month the downturn ended.

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