Output from U.S. factories, mines and utilities rose 0.6 percent in December in spite of a drop in automotive output, boosted by post-hurricane recovery at energy-related industries, a Federal Reserve report showed Tuesday.

The reading outpaced economists' expectations of a climb of 0.5 percent in December output.

Manufacturing production rose 0.2 percent in December even though motor vehicles and parts output fell 2.8 percent. Computer and aerospace production both gained.

Utilities' production climbed 2.7 percent and output at mines advanced 2.5 percent.

For the fourth quarter as a whole, industrial production increased at an annual rate of 3.8 percent.

In a sign of a manufacturing rebound, closely watched business capacity use rose to 80.7 percent, a level last attained in November 2000.

Analysts had expected capacity utilization to rise to 80.5 percent.

For all of 2005, capacity use was 80 percent, the highest since 81.8 percent in 2000.