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Output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose by 0.3 percent in March despite the first decline in manufacturing activity in six months, the government reported today.

The Federal Reserve said the increase in industrial production last month followed gains of 0.2 percent in February and no change in January. It was the best overall showing since a huge 0.8 percent jump in industrial production in December.

However, much of the strength came from a big 0.7 percent rise output at the nation's utilities, reflecting colder weather in March. Production at U.S. factories edged down 0.1 percent last month as auto plants cut back on production. It was the first factory decline since a 0.4 percent drop last September.

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