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The New York Fed's Empire State manufacturing index fell to a seven-month low, it said Monday. The survey of NY State manufacturing plants is considered one of the earliest indications of U.S. factory conditions. General business conditions plummeted to 10.31 in December from 27.37 in November, the lowest reading since May and well below the 20.00 forecast by economists polled by Reuters. New orders fell to 14.26 from 24.49. Shipments were down to 21.08 from 32.19. Unfilled orders dropped to -10, the lowest in almost a year, from -1.20. "There's a lot of weakness in unfilled orders, which can be considered a forward measure," said economist Robert Brusca. "It is consistent with idea that the economy is slowing down."

The index measuring the manufacturing outlook for the next six months rose to 32.4 from 30.5, but a measure of expectations for orders six months out fell to 29 -- the lowest since September 2001. The drop suggests manufacturing growth is "probably going to slow down," Dresdner Kleinwort economist Kevin Logan said. "We haven't seen it that low since 2001, and that's perhaps a signal that things are slowing."

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Source: Manufacturing Index Plummets