Factory output rises
just 0.1 percent
U.S. factories barely boosted their output in September, adding to other signs that the economy was slowing even before the government shutdown began on Oct. 1.
Manufacturing production rose only 0.1 percent, the Federal Reserve said Monday. That’s down from a 0.5 percent gain in August, which was slightly lower than previously reported.
Automakers boosted their output in September, but the gain was offset by declines at makers of computers, furniture and appliances.
Overall industrial production increased 0.6 percent in September, mostly because of a 4.4 percent jump in utility output. Utilities had fallen for five months. But September was unseasonably warm, likely increasing air conditioning use.
sales contracts dip
The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy existing homes fell in September to the lowest level in nine months. The decline reflects higher mortgage rates and home prices that have made purchases more costly.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 5.6 percent last month from August to a reading of 101.6. That also pushed the index below its year-ago level, the first time that’s happened in nearly 2 ½ years.
There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale. The drop suggests final sales will decline in the coming months.
Contracts to buy homes have slowed in recent months as mortgage rates reached a two-year high over the summer. Rates rose in response to speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its stimulus later this year.
BK happy with
Burger King says it’s attracting more customers with its new lower-calorie fries but is being careful not to call them a home run yet.
The Miami-based company said Monday that it saw sales trends in North America turn positive after last month’s launch of “Satisfries,” which have 20 percent fewer calories than its regular fries because of a batter that absorbs less oil.
“It brought in incremental consumers who would otherwise not have come into Burger King,” said Alex Macedo, the chain’s president of North American operations. He noted that other promotions also played a role in improving sales and stressed that the economic climate nevertheless remained challenging.
The move into positive sales territory in October comes after Burger King said that sales slipped 0.3 percent at North America restaurants open at least a year during its third quarter. Satisfries, which cost around 30 cents more than regular fries, weren’t introduced until the last week of the quarter, which ended Sept. 30.
The company blamed the quarterly sales dip on intensifying competition and a soft economy. Its net income rose sharply, however, as a result of reduced restaurant expenses and growth overseas.