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US factory output declines for 2nd time in 3 months

WASHINGTON -- U.S. manufacturing output contracted in May for the second time in three months and a gauge of factory activity in New York state plunged this month, worrisome signs the American economy is cooling.

Factory production shrank 0.4 percent last month, the Federal Reserve said on Friday. Total industrial output, covering factories, mines and utilities, declined 0.1 percent.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected industrial production to rise 0.1 percent.

The slackening U.S. recovery and a worsening debt crisis in Europe have increased expectations of a further easing of monetary policy by the Fed, although economists are divided on whether the central bank will act when it meets on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hiring by U.S. employers has slowed for four straight months, while retail sales contracted in May and new applications for jobless benefits have risen for five of the last six weeks.

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