Economy Briefs: Manufacturing shrinks in November to 3-year low

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U.S. manufacturing shrank in November to its weakest level since July 2009, one month after the Great Recession ended. Worries about automatic tax increases in the new year cut demand for factory orders and manufacturing jobs.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of manufacturing conditions fell to a reading of 49.5. That’s down from 51.7 in October.

Readings above 50 signal growth, while readings below indicate contraction.

SETTLEMENTS

N.C. regulator approves Duke Energy settlement

RALEIGH, N.C. — Duke Energy formalized deals Monday that ended separate investigations by North Carolina regulators and the attorney general into whether the utility misled officials before a merger that made it the country’s largest electric company.

The deals seek to balance greater oversight of the company with flexibility for its executives.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission voted unanimously to approve a settlement announced last week and negotiated by its staff and Duke Energy lawyers.

Duke Energy has 3.2 million customers in North Carolina and another 3.9 million in South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.

ASIA

Vietnam accuses Chinese of cutting seismic cables

HANOI, VietnamVietnam’s state-owned oil and gas company accused Chinese fishing boats on Monday of sabotaging one of its seismic survey ships in the South China Sea, adding to already high tensions over Beijing’s disputed territorial claims in the waters.

PetroVietnam said two Chinese fishing boats cut across cables being laid by the survey vessel Binh Minh 2 off the coast of central Vietnam on Friday.

Chinese and Vietnamese foreign ministry officials had no immediate comment.

China claims most of the South China Sea, bringing it into conflict with its smaller neighbors. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim part of the waters, which are believed to be rich in gas and oil reserves as well as fish stocks. China, which is strengthening its navy, has been increasingly assertive in pressing its claims as its economy has grown in recent years.

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