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Morning Market Roundup: Industrial Production Up, Flat Consumer Prices, Futures Down

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

U.S. Industrial: The Federal Reserve says U.S. industrial production increased 0.6 percent in July from June, the fourth straight monthly increase.

Factory output, the most important component of industrial production, rose 0.5 percent, the second straight increase. Factory output has risen 21.9 percent since its recession low hit in June 2009 and is just 1.7 percent below the pre-recession peak for factory output reached in July 2007.

Factory production slowed this spring and some feared it could weaken further in coming months Europe's financial crisis and slower global growth cut demand for U.S. exports.

Consumer Prices: U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in July from June, as a small drop in energy costs offset slightly higher food prices.

Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, ticked up 0.1 percent last month, the Labor Department said Wednesday. More expensive medical costs, clothing and rents pushed up core prices.

Prices increased 1.4 percent in the 12 months ending in July. That's down from 1.7 percent in June and is the smallest yearly increase in 20 months. Core prices have increased 2.1 percent in the past year, down from a 2.2 percent pace in June.

A severe drought in the Midwest threatens to push up supermarket prices later this year. But in July, the cost of food only increased 0.1 percent. Cereals, bread, meat and chicken all were more expensive in July. But prices for cheese and other dairy products and fruits and vegetables fell.

Mild price increases leave consumers with more money to spend, which can boost economic growth. Lower inflation gives the Federal Reserve more leeway to launch new programs intended to boost growth.

China: China's economic recovery is taking longer than expected. But facing a collapse in export growth and weak consumer spending, Beijing is avoiding an aggressive stimulus and sticking to a gradual strategy of small interest rate cuts and modest spending increases.

A repeat of China's huge stimulus in response to the 2008 crisis, based on a government-led flood of investment, could push up overall growth. But it would set back efforts to nurture a self-sustaining expansion based on domestic consumption, reducing reliance on exports and investment in a shift economists say is needed to keep incomes and living standards rising.

The 2008 stimulus helped China emerge quickly from the global crisis but fueled inflation and a building frenzy that left some communities with underused highways, stadiums and other facilities and debt they might not be able to repay.

July export growth fell to just 1 percent from the previous month's 11.3 percent. Consumer spending and factory output also weakened.

U.S. Futures: Stock futures dipped Wednesday as expectations faded that central banks will step in with a quick fix to nudge along the fragile economic recovery.

Dow Jones industrial futures slid 22 points to 13,111. The broader S&P futures gave up 2.4 points to 1,399.20. Nasdaq futures fell 3.5 points to 2,723.25.

Economic indicators, including those released this week, will likely ease the sense of urgency among fiscal policy makers to act proactively.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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