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The most important new information about the US economy: February was cold.

The Warren Jr., a 150 foot offshore supply boat, cuts a path through the ice as it works as an ice breaker for the commuter ferry in the waters off Hingham, Massachusetts March 3, 2015. With its black hull rumbling against a field of broken ice, the Warren Jr. slowly eased away from a dock in the Boston suburb of Hingham on Tuesday, aiming to clear a path for some of the four ferries that carry commuters from here into the city each day. But in a sign of how long Massachusetts has been gripped by freezing temperatures, no other vessels followed, as the tide narrowed the channel behind the ocean-going supply boat pressed into service as an icebreaker. It was the 15th day of canceled ferry service since late January and the outing was meant to speed the fleet's return to service, which could still be days away. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRANSPORT)
Reuters//Brian Snyder
The US economy is getting through this icy stretch.
By Matt Phillips
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

It was cold in February. It was really, really cold.

You might think that wouldn’t matter much to the world’s largest economy. But it does. As we’ve pointed out, retail sales during the month of February were well below estimates. (Though online sales surged.)

So it was with industrial production, as the just-reported February data shows.

Does this mean anything about the fundamental health of the US business cycle? No. Last year’s polar vortex put a similar chill on the US economy in the first quarter, but the nation’s economic machinery defrosted in subsequent months.

That means most February economic data should be taken with a few scoops of de-icing salt.

If it’s useful for anything, the February data can at least remind us that it was really cold.

Which is why production at US utilities surged 7.3% in February, compared to the prior month. That’s the largest month-on-month jump on record going back to at least the early 1970s.

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