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Factory output up in February

U.S. factory output rebounded strongly in February after harsh winter storms caused a steep drop-off in production in January. Manufacturers produced more autos, home electronics and chemicals.

The Federal Reserve said Monday that factory production surged 0.8 percent, nearly reversing a 0.9 percent plunge in January that was mainly because of weather. February’s gain was the largest in six months.

The figures suggest that factories are poised to boost output and drive more economic growth as the weather improves.

Builder confidence edges higher in March

U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market edged higher this month, reflecting improved demand for new homes as the traditional spring home-selling season ramps up.

But the outlook for sales of single-family homes over the next six months dimmed slightly as builders continue to grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, ready-to-build land and rising building materials costs.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose to 47. That’s up from February’s reading of 46.

Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

The overall index had been above 50 from June through January, reflecting a strengthening housing market. The season typically sets the pattern for residential hiring and building construction in the ensuing months.

Partnership to conduct online benefits survey

A partnership of four area county economic development organizations will conduct an online wage-and-benefits survey of private-sector area employers.

The four-county survey will be conducted by the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership, the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp., the Noble County Economic Development Corp. and the Steuben County Economic Development Corp.

Participating companies receive information about the general labor market. This survey also benefits companies that are looking to expand or locate in northeast Indiana.

“The first year was very successful and there is no reason to believe that trend won’t continue,” Dave Koenig, executive director for the Steuben County agency, said in a statement. “If you are an employer in one of the four counties and are interested in participating, contact your local economic development office.”

Mediacom upgrading local HD offerings

Mediacom Communications announced Monday it is upgrading network technology to provide area customers with a major expansion of its high-definition lineup, while eliminating analog reception for Family Cable video channels.

Mediacom’s upgrade will affect the Family Cable channel series local subscribers find on their lineup between 17 and 78. Those channels will transition to a digital-only frequency in May and continued reception will require the use of either a digital converter or a digital adapter.

Current customers can receive up to three digital adapters at no cost through June 30, 2015.

Mediacom serves various rural communities in northeast Indiana.