Led by a big jump in automobile assemblies, industrial production rose 0.4 percent in November following two consecutive monthly declines, the Federal Reserve reported yesterday.
The report, coupled with one from the Labor Department showing a 0.5 percent increase last month in producer prices for finished goods, was taken by many economists as further evidence that the economy is expanding at a somewhat faster pace than in the previous four months.
The Fed also said, in a separate report, that the amount of consumer installment credit outstanding rose by $6.3 billion in October to a level of $453.8 billion. The October gain was half again as large as September's $4.3 billion and represented a 16.8 percent annual rate of increase.
The industrial production gains for November were widespread, with the biggest coming in durable consumer goods, the index for which rose 2.5 percent. Auto assemblies reached an annual rate of 7.9 million last month, up from "strike-depressed" rates of about 7 million in September and October, the report said.
However, production of so-called home goods -- items such as appliances, TVs, furniture and carpeting -- fell 0.6 percent after a 0.9 percent drop the month before. The output of business equipment fell 0.3 percent, the third monthly decline in a row for that group. Output of intermediate products, such as component parts for machines, also fell 0.2 percent.
Defense and space equipment production continued to climb steadily. Its 0.9 percent increase left output of that category up 14.3 percent from November 1983.
The overall industrial production index, which measures output of the nation's factories, mines and utilities, was revised downward to show a 0.6 percent decline in September and a 0.4 percent drop in October.
Earlier, the Fed had reported a 0.5 percent drop in September and no change in October. The November increase left the index 6.2 percent higher than its year-earlier level.
The rise in finished goods prices, 0.5 percent, was the largest since last January. The index had dropped 0.2 percent in each of the previous two months and, with a revision, had shown no change in August. The index was up 1.9 percent in the past 12 months.
Higher prices were recorded for most finished goods. The consumer foods portion of the index rose 0.7 percent and that for consumer goods other than food 0.5 percent. Capital equipment prices increased 0.2 percent, the Labor Department said.
In the food area, prices turned up sharply for beef, veal and pork following declines in those commodities during previous months.
Prices for finished energy goods rose 0.6 percent, less than the 1.5 percent rise in October, as gasoline and home heating oil prices continued to go up. Natural gas prices fell in October for the third consecutive month.
The index for intermediate goods rose 0.3 percent. It had dropped slightly between June and September and edged up 0.1 percent in October.
Crude goods prices jumped 2 percent, the largest monthly increase since August 1983. A big 4.9 percent rise in food and feedstuffs prices more than offset a 1.8 percent drop in crude oil prices, which was the biggest decline since March 1983.
Analysts said the pattern of widespread price increases was consistent with firming demand for products associated with renewed economic growth. However, the analysts also noted that several sectors of the economy remain weak, with little prospect returning soon to the booming rates of growth seen in the first half of the year.
Next Tuesday, the Commerce Department will release its "flash" estimate for the gross national product for the current quarter. Most forecasters expect it to show GNP, adjusted for inflation, rising at about the same 1.9 percent annual rate as in the third quarter.
In a separate report yesterday, Commerce said total sales by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers were $410.8 billion in October, about the same as the month before. A rise of 1.7 percent in durable goods sales was offset by a 1.3 percent drop in sales of non-durables.
Manufacturing and trade inventories rose 0.8 percent, with most of the buildup at the wholesale and retail levels, both of which rose 1.3 percent. As a consequence of the rise in inventories and unchanged sales, the ratio of inventories to sales increased to 1.38, up 0.01 from September.
The Federal Reserve said most of the acceleration in consumer credit was for automobiles and loans at commercial banks and credit unions. In September, consumer installment loans at banks had declined.