Industrial production continues fall

| Friday, November 16, 2001

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 slipped.

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.

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