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.
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.
Vietnam accuses Chinese of cutting seismic cables
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam'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.
FDA, manufacturers partner on medical device research
The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it will collaborate with medical device manufacturers on a public-private partnership designed to speed up the development of new medical technology.
The agency said it hopes to offer guidance to the Medical Device Innovation Consortium, a new industry-backed group that aims to simplify the design and testing of medical devices.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg noted that many medical device companies are small businesses and don't have the research budgets to find more effective ways of testing their products. She said the new group would pull information and ideas from industry, government and academia.
Small-biz borrowing picked up in October
NEW YORK — Small-business owners borrowed more in October, a sign they might be getting more confident about hiring.
Lending to small companies rose 11 percent from September's level, according to a survey released Monday by PayNet, which provides credit ratings on small businesses. Small-business lending has been erratic recently, dropping in September after increasing in July and August.
Several reports this week will show whether businesses stepped up their hiring during November. Among them: the Labor Department's monthly employment report on Friday.
Pfizer laying off some sales representatives
NEW YORK — Drug maker Pfizer Inc. is starting another round of layoffs, targeting U.S. sales representatives who promote Pfizer primary care medicines to doctors.
The New York-based Viagra maker isn't giving details on how many salespeople it employs, how many will leave or when that will happen. Individual salespeople haven't been notified whether they'll be furloughed.
Chinese units of 5 big U.S. audit firms charged
Federal regulators have charged the Chinese affiliates of five of the biggest U.S. accounting firms with impeding the government's investigation of Chinese companies by refusing to turn over documents.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday it has started proceedings against the Chinese affiliates of all so-called Big Four accounting firms, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and a fifth major firm, BDO.
Hundreds of Chinese companies trade on U.S. stock exchanges. The SEC has been investigating many of them for possible accounting fraud. The agency says the accounting firms, which audit Chinese companies, have refused to cooperate in investigations of nine companies and to provide documents.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports