Last updated: February 14. 2014 11:20PM - 17783 Views
By John DiMaria

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Cold affects

factory output

Harsh winter weather led to a steep drop in U.S. factory output in January. Manufacturers made fewer cars and trucks, appliances, furniture and carpeting, as the recent cold spell ended five straight months of increased production

The Federal Reserve said factory production plunged 0.8 percent in January, reversing gains of 0.3 percent in both December and November. Automakers lost days of production because of snowstorms, as their production plummeted 5.1 percent, the report said.

Factory output rose a modest 1.3 percent over the past 12 months.

Overall industrial production, which includes manufacturing, mining and utilities, fell 0.3 percent in January. Output for utilities rose 4.1 percent last month as the freezing temperatures boosted heating demand.

Factories responded to the weather by running at a lower 76 percent capacity, a 0.7 percentage point drop over the month and 2.7 percentage points below the long-run average.

Feds end Chrysler

stalling probe

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed an investigation into engine stalling in some Chrysler cars after the company extended the fuel tank warranty.

The probe covered nearly 154,000 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum cars from 2006. The cars have 5.7-liter or 6.1-liter V8 engines.

Investigators checked more than 1,200 complaints and found 299 in which the fuel system allowed gas tanks to be over-filled. That caused the cars to stall when stopped or at low speeds.

The problem was traced to a fuel shut-off device that can stick open when exposed to high-ethanol gasoline. Chrysler updated the part in new cars and guaranteed it for life in cars now on the road.

The agency said Friday that the problem is a low risk to safety.

Hard cider making

comeback in the US

Cider was once America’s drink, but after getting buried by beer and trampled by the temperance movement, one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages is fermenting a rebirth.

“After more than 100 years in decline, cider is making a massive comeback,” said Will McClatchey, director of research at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth, who has been studying cider orchards around the world since 2005.

Now they are popping up around him in Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

This isn’t the sweet, unfiltered apple juice that most Americans think of as cider. The hard stuff is usually fermented from the myriad varieties of tart, bittersweet apples grown for drinking, not eating, McClatchey said.

While cider is still a niche market, the rise in U.S. sales is an eye opener. According to Impact Databank, which tracks statistics for the wine, beer and spirits industry, the top 10 cider brands in the U.S. collectively grew by 62 percent in 2012.

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