In the longest stretch
of declines in manufacturing since the Great Depression, industrial production
plunged in October for the 13th straight month. Oil and consumer prices also
The Federal Reserve reported
Friday that output at U.S. factories, utilities and mines fell 1.1 percent
last month, in addition to a 1 percent decline in September. The 13-month
stretch of declining activity marked the longest period of falling industrial
output since a 15-month stretch that ended in July 1932.
The nation's manufacturing
sector has been hardest hit by the economic slump and Sept. 11 attacks compounded
the industry's struggles. To cope with the fallout, companies have significantly
cut back production, trimmed hours and let go of workers.
In another report, consumer
prices fell by 0.3 percent in October, reflecting a record drop in the price
of natural gas and significantly lower costs for fuel, the Labor Department
said. The most recent Consumer Price Index readings, a key inflation measure,
marked the best showing in three months after prices rose 0.4 percent in September.
The decline in consumer
prices highlighted one of the few benefits a weakening economy can provide.
Analysts say consumers should find plenty of bargains this holiday season
- and for months to come if demand slumps.
Oil prices have also
plunged to their lowest level in more than two years, which could further
push down prices at the fuel pump. December crude oil futures closed at $17.45
a barrel on Thursday, the lowest level since June 1999.