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Auto Production Drops

Automakers turned out 1 percent fewer vehicles and parts last month. Manufacturers also reported declining production of appliances and furniture, clothing and construction equipment and materials.

Factories are in decline as consumer spending falters. Sales at retailers unexpectedly fell 0.6 percent in February, led by declines at auto dealers and restaurants, the Commerce Department reported last week.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. reported sales dropped in February from a year earlier, according to industry data issued March 3. General Motors and Ford each announced deeper reductions in production for the second quarter.

Toyota last week announced plans to trim production of full-size Tundra pickup trucks at factories in Texas and Indiana as sales slow.

A strike by GM's biggest supplier of axles is making matters even worse.
The walkout at American Axle Manufacturing & Holdings Inc. will cut gross domestic product by at least 0.2 percentage point this quarter, according to a forecast by economists at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. Should the strike last through March, the reduction will be twice as large, they said.

Industrial production is one of the measures tracked by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of when economic expansions begin and end, to help determine the onset of a recession.

``Industrial production should continue to flash recession red,'' said economists at Credit Suisse Holdings in New York, in a March 13 note to clients.
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