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US plants again show less hum

The nation's industrial output fell last month for the seventh time in eight months, the Federal Reserve Board reported, indicating the recession had not yet run its course.

Industrial production fell 0.8 percent last month after a temporary weather-related spurt in February and has now fallen 8.3 percent from the pre-recession peak recorded in July, according to the Fed.

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Output fell 3.3 percent during the first quarter of this year, the Fed said, suggesting that Commerce Department data to be released next week will show a sharp decline in gross national product during the three months ended in March.

Production of defense and space equipment, which has risen steadily throughout the recession, was up 7.6 percent from a year earlier, but output of construction supplies was down 16.3 percent from a year earlier.

In Boston, Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said he predicts a decline in interest rates by early summer and says it will trigger the beginning of economic recovery.

''The most important change so far has been the dramatic drop in inflation . . . this year,'' Mr. Baldrige said at a conference on trade in Africa. But he said interest rates are still much too high, blaming it on ''our legacy from the last administration.''

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