Investors eye holiday sales for market salve

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors will get a glimpse of consumer health next week as the holiday shopping season gets under way with Black Friday sales, and a solid start could help equities steady after several tumultuous weeks.

The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the traditional start of the holiday buying season, although deals and bargains are being unveiled earlier this year.

Wall Street has been struggling with uncertainty over U.S. congressional midterm elections, the path of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, tariffs, the trade war and the possibility corporate earnings have already peaked. But a strong start to the gift buying season could help ease some concerns.

After an October that saw the S&P 500 .SPX slump nearly 7 percent, Wall Street has struggled to find its footing, rising 0.7 percent so far in November. That puts the index on pace for its biggest quarterly loss since the third quarter of 2015 and its worst fourth quarter performance in a decade.

About 38 percent of American consumers plan to shop on Black Friday this year, and six in 10 of those shoppers anticipate making at least half of their holiday purchases on that day, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Thursday.

“Of all the other factors, the consumer has been hanging in there – they drove third quarter growth, we are seeing wage growth over 3 percent, financing rates are still reasonable,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors in Chicago.

“If we see any kind of disappointment in Black Friday sales, that is going to cause some real concern.”

Same store sales for the fourth quarter are expected to come in at a healthy 3 percent, according to Refinitiv data. Still, that number is trending downward from the previous two quarters and is slightly below the year-ago result of 3.1 percent.

Refinitiv same store sales index – tmsnrt.rs/2QFVypg

A strong start to holiday sales might not translate to strong earnings, however, reinforcing concerns about the best of corporate profits being in the rear-view mirror as retailers have to grapple with deal-conscious consumers.

“Even a healthy consumer doesn’t necessarily mean that retail sales and profitability and performance will be off the charts,” said Shawn Kravetz, president of Esplanade Capital in Boston, who spoke at the Reuters Global Investment 2019 Outlook Summit in New York this week.

Muddying the picture was data on Thursday that showed U.S. retail sales rebounded sharply in October, boosted by purchases of motor vehicles and building materials, but the prior two months were revised lower and the trend indicated slower consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

Big name retailers such as Target (TGT.N), Lowe’s Companies (LOW.N) and Gap Inc (GPS.N) are expected to report quarterly results next week and investors will watch for any guidance for the holiday season.

Still, a strong start to the holiday shopping season will only partially alleviate investor concerns, with a G20 meeting at the end of November and the final Fed policy announcement of the year in December likely to cause some market volatility.

The market will need to digest these events for it to have a chance for what is known as a Santa Claus rally. Since 1950, the S&P has rallied in December three-fourths of the time, according to the Stock Traders Almanac. The benchmark index has gained an average of 1.6 percent for December, the best month of the year.

“These are all important things but if the mosaic is either constructive or negative then that is going to provide a wealth of information to either drive the market higher or drive the market lower.” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist, at Federated Investors, in New York.

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China Southern Airlines to exit SkyTeam alliance

SHANGHAI • China Southern Airlines plans to leave the SkyTeam alliance, the carrier said on Thursday, opening the potential for it to become a member of the oneworld group alongside strategic partner American Airlines Group.

SkyTeam and oneworld are two of three global airline alliances that provide reciprocal benefits for passengers such as lounge usage and frequent flier points and give airlines transfer passengers from partners in a boost to revenue. Star Alliance is the third.

American Airlines spent US$200 million (S$275 million) on a minority stake in China Southern last year with an eye to growing in the booming Chinese travel market, but the benefits of the partnership have been stalled in part by the Chinese carrier’s presence in SkyTeam.

China Southern said it will leave SkyTeam on Jan 1 to develop its own strategy. It said it would strengthen its partnership with American Airlines, but did not specify any plans to join oneworld.

“This news presents a great opportunity for us to continue to expand our relationship with the largest airline in China,”American Airlines said in a statement. The two carriers launched a reciprocal codeshare agreement this year.

One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that China Southern would consider joining oneworld in the future.

“Our members will assess in due course the potential implications for oneworld of China Southern’s announcement that it is to leave SkyTeam,” oneworld said in a statement. Members of oneworld include British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Japan Airlines.

SkyTeam – which includes Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM – has said it will work with China Southern to ensure a seamless transition for all customers and partners – a process that will run throughout 2019 and be completed by year end.

SkyTeam already has another big Chinese carrier, China Eastern Airlines, as a member. It is unusual to have two rival carriers within the same alliance. Xiamen Airlines, a subsidiary of China Southern that is also a SkyTeam member, has no plans to quit the alliance, its spokesman Qiu Dapeng said on Thursday.

US airlines have so far struggled to gain a foothold in China, scaling back routes amid tough competition from state-backed Chinese rivals that are aggressively expanding their fleets and offering cut-price tickets.

Beijing plans to open its second international airport, Beijing Daxing International, next year.

REUTERS

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KN Group merger with Circet will see €1.1bn revenue

Irish telecoms network services provider KN Group believes its merger with French firm Circet will create a group with more than €1.1bn in annual revenue this year.

The deal, first revealed by the Irish Independent, has been officially announced by the parties.

Circet, owned by private equity firm Advent International since earlier this year, turns over around €800m a year. The deal will see both businesses retain their current brands and management teams in their home markets.

Eamonn O’Kennedy, former chief financial officer of Cairn Homes, has joined KN in the same role on foot of the deal.

The parties did not announce the consideration paid to KN – resulting in a windfall for chief executive Donagh Kelly and fellow directors Conall Murray and Brian Curran – but it is believed a business of that size would fetch a price of over €150m.

KN was advised on the deal by Clearwater International, led by John Sheridan. KN has expertise in rolling out fibre networks and is one of the partners for the build-out of the National Broadband Plan, with the sole remaining bidder being the Granahan McCourt-led consortium.

“With an expanded offering and geographical footprint, we are very well positioned to capitalise on the significant growth opportunities we see across markets, underpinned by the stellar growth in data consumption, extensive fibre deployment plans and the continued international investment in mobile networks,” said Circet chief executive Philippe Lamazou.

Michael Ogrinz, partner at Advent International, added: “This first major step outside France for Circet just a few months after our initial investment is a great example of how our international network here at Advent can help bring together the best companies in a given sector.

“Circet and KN together will become Europe’s foremost telecom services company.” The merged entity will span France, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Morocco and the Caribbean.

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Irish airlines ask the EU for grace period on ownership rules

Ryanair, Aer Lingus parent IAG and EasyJet have asked the EU for a one-year moratorium on ownership rules that otherwise could force them to buy back shares held by British investors after Brexit.

EU rules state that the majority of any domestic airline’s shares must be owned by member state nationals.

The rules have long blocked US and Middle Eastern buyers taking full control of European carriers.

Airline representatives met Sabine Weyand, deputy to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, to press their case, according to French financial newspaper ‘La Tribune’.

A year’s extension would give the companies more time to figure out the best solution to the issue. If after Brexit British nationals no longer count for the purposes of the rules, that could mean the airlines lose their European operating licences if only a minority of shareholders come from the remaining EU member states.

Ireland’s aviation watchdog, Cathy Mannion, said that the Commission for Aviation Regulation has written to all the Irish airlines to remind them about the rules,

“This is very significant. We have 16 licenced air carriers in Ireland… and we’ve been in contact with all of them to make them aware of this point,” Ms Mannion said.

“It’s up to the airlines as to what it is they want to do. Some of them are not impacted at all and some of them will be… that’s an important thing for the airlines to get sorted out.”

IAG, led by Willie Walsh, has previously said that it is “confident that we will comply with the EU and the UK ownership and control rules post Brexit”.

It did not comment on whether it had asked Ms Weyand for an extension.

The group, which alongside Aer Lingus includes British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, said it is confident that “a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and the UK will be reached”.

“It’s in the UK and EU’s interests to have a fully liberalised aviation agreement. Aviation liberalisation has been a great success story across Europe, benefiting one billion customers each year and creating a huge number of jobs across the continent. Even if there is no Brexit deal, both the EU and UK have said they will put an agreement in place that allows flights to continue.”

Ryanair and EasyJet did not respond to requests for comment. In Ryanair’s most recent annual report, it said that as of July 19 this year, EU nationals (including Britons) owned at least 52.8pc of Ryanair shares.

The report said if it faced losing its EU licence, it is entitled to identify some shares as restricted shares and require that they be disposed to EU nationals.

Additional reporting Bloomberg

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Digicel bond swap negotiations 'are going well', says O'Brien

Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien said “conversations are going well” as the telecoms business seeks to agree a swap deal with bondholders.

The deadline for bondholders to accept the swap offer has been extended a number of times as negotiations continue.

“We knew this was going to take a long time because you have so many different views of people and we’re trying to find a consensus that we’re happy with and our bondholders are happy with. So it’s very consultative and the conversations are going well. It’s just bringing everybody with you, as such, is what it’s all about,” Mr O’Brien said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Under the swap offer, bonds with an 8.25pc interest due in 2020 would be swapped for new bonds due in 2022, also with an 8.25pc interest rate.

Another class of bonds, due in 2022 and with a 7.125pc interest rate, would be swapped for new bonds due in 2024, with an 8.25pc interest rate. Cash interest would be 7.125pc and payment-in-kind interest (interest rolled up as new debt) would be 1.125pc.

After the offer was made a group of bondholders seeking better terms was formed.

One of the issues that is believed to have emerged in discussions was an element of the plan that would see the new 2024 notes subordinated to other parts of Digicel’s capital structure.

On Digicel’s performance, Mr O’Brien said the company had spent $2.3bn (€2bn) on capital expenditure in the last four years, including the roll-out of fibreoptic networks.

“We feel that we can now increase the profitability of the business and go back to where it was,” Mr O’Brien said.

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How and When to Talk to Your Children About Money

Jennifer and David Buckwald, who live in Colts Neck, N.J., struggled with how to impart their financial values to their two children.

Both wanted to ensure that their children, ages 14 and 12, were motivated to succeed in their own right. Mr. Buckwald, in particular, was concerned that their children would think that the affluent town where they live, an area of horses and golf clubs, was reflective of the wider world.

But even though they both work in finance and hold degrees in psychology, they didn’t know exactly how to approach a conversation about money and more broadly about financial and family values. This year, they decided to change that.

“We know the importance of planning, and we have every insurance under the sun,” Ms. Buckwald said. “But we never sat down and talked about our values — what’s important about making money and saving money?”

Mr. Buckwald conceded that it was not easy: “It was a chore, at first. The kids didn’t want to do this.”

Gathering the family around the Thanksgiving dinner table is a great opportunity to impart family values and lessons around money. Not only is the family beholden to come together, but this is the time of year when many people make their annual charitable gifts. Money is on their minds.

But holidays can be fraught with emotion, so experts say it might be better to take smaller steps, like setting a later date to talk to children and grandchildren.

Regardless of when the talk is done, experts say families need to approach these conversations with a plan and a willingness to listen as much as talk.

The first step for parents is to overcome their reluctance to talk about financial matters with their children, a discussion perhaps second only to the birds and the bees in terms of the discomfort it generates.

“Talking about family money is similar to talking to kids about sex,” said Jeff Savlov, founder of Blum & Savlov, a family business consulting firm. “There is such a thing as too much, too soon.”

Once past that hurdle, a good place to start is family stories. “Our family stories helped shape us into what we are today,” said Donna Skeels Cygan, president of Sage Future Financial, an advisory firm. “It is important to acknowledge which family members had a very positive impact on our childhood.”

These stories work better, though, when they’re not just focused on joy or success. Mr. Buckwald said he told stories about his financially challenging childhood. But as part of an exercise with Mr. Savlov, Mr. Buckwald also told his children about a relative who ran a speakeasy during Prohibition.

Being explicit with the lessons works well. Stephanie Eras, an engineer in New Mexico, said she used the benefits package offered by her daughter’s part-time job at Panera Bread as an opportunity to discuss savings.

As an inducement for her daughter to save the maximum amount allowed in the company’s 401(k) plan, Ms. Eras matched her daughter’s contribution. She also shared stories about her father and mother, who lived frugally.

“My mom didn’t tell us, ‘You must go to college and get a good job.’ She said, ‘You need to get a job with benefits,’” Ms. Eras said. “Those lessons taught me to live within my means.”

When her daughter announced that money wouldn’t buy them happiness, Ms. Eras pointed out that although that was true, money bought the things that they needed and wanted. “I listed them,” she said.

Lisa Bealhan, who lives in Albuquerque, said she was always ready and willing to talk to her three stepdaughters about financial decisions. But she would wait for the right moment.

“I learned a long time ago that if they ask you for advice, give it a gentle way,” she said. “But if they don’t ask, wrap your head in duct tape if you have to, but say nothing.”

Yet she and her husband, Scott, who died this year, led by example. They had owned a booming custom home business in the Southwest, developing entire subdivisions. He had been the president of the homebuilders association.

“We created a lot of wealth,” she said. “We didn’t spend beyond our means. We drove nice Toyotas, but we didn’t drive Mercedes. We could have afforded the Mercedes. But it wasn’t something we cared about.”

Your children will almost invariably figure out how much your home and cars cost — thank the internet for that — and they may also view those assets in comparison to what their friends have. But deciding when to tell them how much you make is up to you, and it may be years before they have the maturity to understand what that number means.

Mr. Buckwald said his teenage son often asks him how much he earns, but he is not ready to tell him. Yet as a family, they have started to talk about expenses, including their grocery bill.

“We use concrete numbers,” Ms. Buckwald said. “It’s almost empowering to them.”

Any of these talks will require intentionality. Mr. Savlov plays a game with families where he lines up 100 pieces of licorice on a table. He then leads a discussion about all the people in the world who have less and more than they do. At the end, he asks them to remove licorice sticks to show where their family stands financially in the world.

“Invariably, they leave between five and 10 pieces of licorice on the table,” he said. “But whatever is left, I’ll take them away, until I get it down to one, and then I take out a pair of scissors and cut one in half and half again and half again. It comes down to this little speck and then I say, ‘How does this strike you?’”

The exercise allows a logical entry into a conversation about wants and needs.

Despite the benefits of talking to children about money, people put off these talks. The risk is that at a certain point, parents feel they cannot have those conversations once their children become adults.

Janet and Bob Serier, a New Mexico couple both married for the second time, said they fell into that category with their three sons from their first marriages. The couple was able to stop working in their 50s and they are living comfortably in their early 70s.

But they have started trying to impart the financial lessons they wished they had shared with their children to their grandchildren.

Mrs. Serier said when her children were young, she was divorced and focused on her career to provide for them. “I’m not sure I ever said anything to them directly,” she said.

But her grandsons have given her a second chance. “They listen to you,” she said. “Grandchildren look up to their grandparents. We find we’re less inhibited.”

Sometimes, though, children have to start the talk with their aging parents. These are not conversations about family values so much as they are pragmatic assessments of a parent’s need for care and support — and who is going to provide it.

It might be best to focus on a series of planning behaviors, like making sure financial and health care documents and passwords are organized, and having discussions about who will manage their affairs, said Ronald Long, head of regulatory affairs and elder client initiatives at Wells Fargo Advisors.

“Skip the Black Friday shopping and spend a half an hour talking to each other,” Mr. Long said.

That’s good advice at any age.

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Wall Street advances on trade optimism; Nvidia, Facebook lag

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The S&P 500 and Dow Industrials rose on Friday after President Donald Trump said the United States may not have to impose further tariffs on Chinese goods.

All three indexes had been lower in early trade as an underwhelming earnings outlook from Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) weighed on chipmaker stocks and shares of Facebook Inc (FB.O) extended their slide following reports critical of the company’s response to Russian propaganda on its social network.

U.S. stocks moved higher, however, after President Donald Trump said China seemed willing to make a deal on trade and that the United States may not have to impose further tariffs on the Chinese goods.

“We caught a little bit of a rally on the president’s quotes on the upcoming meeting with China,” said Mark Kepner, equity trader at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

But lagging Nvidia and Facebook shares capped the Nasdaq’s gains.

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  • Investors eye holiday sales for market salveInvestors eye holiday sales for market salve

Nvidia tumbled 18.8 percent after the chipmaker pointed to the decline in cryptocurrency mining as the cause of its declining sales. The chipmaker’s shares also weighed on the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index .SOX, which declined 0.8 percent.

Facebook shares dropped 2.8 percent upon renewed concerns that the company could face regulatory scrutiny following a New York Times report on Wednesday about the company’s attempts to deflect criticism.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 163.82 points, or 0.65 percent, to 25,453.09, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 12.21 points, or 0.45 percent, to 2,742.41 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 10.08 points, or 0.14 percent, to 7,269.11.

S&P 500 energy .SPNY stocks rose 1.3 percent as oil prices recovered from sharp losses this week on expectations that OPEC and its allies would agree to cut output next month.

S&P 500 utility stocks also jumped, advancing 1.4 percent, as PG&E Corp (PCG.N) shares surged 38.8 percent. Statements from the California Public Utilities Commission raised hopes that the embattled utility company could be spared from bankruptcy if it were found liable for the state’s deadliest-ever wildfire.

Consumer discretionary stocks, however, fell 0.4 percent. Continuing a gloomy week for retailers, shares of department store operator Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) tumbled 13.9 percent after quarterly same-store sales missed estimates and the company reported charges from a credit card problem.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.19-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.04-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 26 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 22 new highs and 102 new lows.

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Varadkar: A no-deal Brexit would make it 'very difficult' to avoid a hard border

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said that it would be “very difficult” to avoid a hard border in Ireland if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said that such a scenario would see Ireland being asked to implement EU law and the UK having to comply with World Trade Organisation rules.

His remarks come amid continuing chaos in Westminster and huge uncertainty on whether or not Theresa May can get her government’s Brexit deal with the EU through parliament.

That deal would prevent a hard border in Ireland as all of the UK would stay in a form of customs union with the EU.

However, it is being opposed by Brexiteers in Mrs May’s own party.

Mr Varadkar this afternoon said Mrs May is going to have “quite a battle” to get the deal through the House of Commons.

And he said that “in a no-deal scenario it would be very difficult to avoid a hard border”.

Mr Varadkar warned “hard Brexiteers” that “good political will” is not enough to avoid a hard border in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

He said: “The only way we can avoid a hard border is by an agreement, an agreement that covers customs and regulations.

“We have that now”.

He said that he’s heard speculation about different scenarios coming from politicians who are opposed to the current deal.

He added: “while I’m hearing people opposing what’s been negotiated I’m not really hearing any of the opponents putting forward an alternative that allows us to avoid a hard border that protects citizens’ rights and allows trade to continue normally across Ireland Britain and Europe.

“That’s what has been achieved in this agreement.”

Earlier, Michael Gove threw a beleaguered Mrs May a lifeline after deciding that he will remain in her Government as Environment Secretary.

Following the resignation of four ministers in the wake of her poorly-received Brexit deal on Thursday, speculation was rife that the departure of the most senior Leave campaigner in her Cabinet could deal a damaging blow to Mrs May.

But a source close to Mr Gove told the Press Association: “Michael is staying at Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

“He thinks it is important to continue working with Cabinet colleagues to ensure the best outcome for the country.”

Asked whether she could afford the loss of Mr Gove from her team, Mrs May told radio station LBC: “I want all of my colleagues in the Cabinet to feel able to carry on doing the excellent job they are doing.”

Mr Gove was reported to have been offered the post of Brexit Secretary vacated by Dominic Raab, but to have said he would only take it if he could renegotiate the EU withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May said she had “a very good conversation” with Mr Gove on Thursday, but declined to say what they had discussed, other than the future of the fishing industry after Brexit.

She denied that she had had a “testy exchange” over Brexit with Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority administration in the Commons.

But she left no doubt she was aware she cannot guarantee DUP support when Brexit comes to the Commons, saying: “Every individual MP will decide how they will vote, whether they are DUP, Conservative, Labour.

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U.S. manufacturing production increases; headwinds growing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. manufacturing output rose for a fifth straight month in October, shrugging off a sharp drop in motor vehicle production and suggesting underlying strength in factory activity despite growing headwinds that are expected to slow the sector in 2019.

The Federal Reserve said on Friday manufacturing production rose 0.3 percent last month. Data for September was revised up to show output at factories increasing 0.3 percent instead of advancing 0.2 percent as previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast manufacturing output rising 0.2 percent in October. Manufacturing, which accounts for more than 12 percent of the economy, is expected to slow down next year in part as the stimulus from the Trump’s administration’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.

Manufacturing surveys have suggested a moderation in factory activity amid labor shortages as well as more expensive raw materials caused by the White House’s protectionist trade policy.

A strong dollar, which has gained about 8.1 percent this year against the currencies of the United States’ main trade partners, is also hurting exports, and there are signs of slowing growth in other economies, including China.

“The manufacturing sector is still coping fairly well with the dollar’s recent appreciation and the slowdown in global growth,” said Andrew Hunter, a U.S. economist at Capital Economics in London.

“But the recent weakening in the global manufacturing PMIs, particularly in China, suggests that the current strength of the factory sector is unlikely to be sustained,” Hunter said, referring to purchasing managers’ indexes.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data, with traders focused on worries about a slowing global economy. The dollar .DXY fell against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury prices rose. Stocks on Wall Street were trading lower.

AUTO PRODUCTION SLUMPS

Motor vehicle production slumped 2.8 percent in October after rising 1.3 percent in September. Economists blamed the drop on U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and warned of further harm to production if the duties were not scrapped.

“While automakers have successfully countered industry headwinds, such as tighter bank lending for autos, U.S. import tariffs on steel and aluminum continue to pose downside risks amid late-cycle demand fatigue,” said Stephen Ciccarella, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing gained a solid 0.5 percent last month, boosted by a strong increase in the output of business equipment. That followed a 0.2 percent rise in September.

Business equipment production increased 0.8 percent, matching September’s rise. The strong gains suggest a pickup in business spending on equipment in the fourth quarter after it stalled in the July-September period.

October’s rise in manufacturing production offset decreases in mining and utilities output, leading to a 0.1 percent gain in industrial production last month. Industrial output rose 0.2 percent in September.

The Fed said Hurricanes Florence and Michael had lowered the level of industrial production in both September and October, but the effects of the storms “appear to be less than 0.1 percent per month.”

Mining output fell 0.3 percent in October after slipping 0.1 percent in September. Oil and gas well drilling rebounded 1.6 percent after declining for three straight months. With oil prices dropping to an eight-month low on Tuesday, economists expect mining production to remain weak.

“Given the steep declines in oil prices since early October, these declines in mining activity are likely to gather momentum in the coming months,” said Jonathan Millar, an economist at Barclays in New York.

Utilities output dropped 0.5 percent in October after dipping 0.1 percent in the prior month.

Capacity utilization for the manufacturing sector, a measure of how fully firms are using their resources, rose to 76.2 percent in October, the highest since July 2015, from 76.1 percent in September.

Overall capacity use for the industrial sector fell to 78.4 percent from 78.5 in September. It is 1.4 percentage points below its 1972-to-2017 average.

Officials at the Fed tend to look at capacity use measures for signals of how much “slack” remains in the economy — how far growth has room to run before it becomes inflationary.

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