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Reuters//Brian Snyder
The US economy is getting through this icy stretch.
JUST CHILL

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

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.