ISM (manufacturing) index drops to 49.5% in Nov. * *PIC*
ISM index drops to 49.5% in November (by Jeffry Bartash)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - U.S. manufacturers contracted in November and activity fell to the lowest level since July 2009, as new orders sank and employment plans were scaled back, according to the closely followed ISM index. The Institute for Supply Management index fell to 49.5% from 51.7% in October. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the index to remain flat at 51.7%. Reading under 50 indicate more manufacturers are shrinking instead of expanding. The index has now fallen in four of the last six months. The ISM's new-orders gauge sank to 50.3% from 54.2%, although the production index edged up to 53.7% from 52.4%. The employment gauge declined to 48.4% from 52.1%, the lowest level since September 2009. Earlier Monday, a similar U.S. manufacturing survey produced by Markit rose to a six-month high of 52.8 in November.