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) -- Economic conditions worsened in New York this month according to the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey.

The index plunged 27 points to -11.1 in November, marking the first time since July 2009 that the index fell below zero.

The new orders index dropped 37 points to -24.4. The shipments index all fell below zero.

The majority of manufacturers who responded to the survey said they expected their debt levels to remain unchanged and indicated that they would be conserving cash in the coming months. According to the survey, 35% of respondents said they were carrying a higher level of cash, while 42% said they expected their cash holdings to rise.

Despite the declines, manufacturers appeared to be gaining confidence about future prospects. The future general business conditions index increased to 54.6, with 60% of those surveyed anticipating conditions to improve over the next six months. Only 5% expected conditions to worsen.

-- Written by Ross Tucker in New York.

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