Dow Takes Second Straight Two-Percent Plunge
Another day of big losses knocked U.S. stocks to their lowest levels in more than a year Monday. Investors dumped high-growth technology and retail companies as well as steadier, high-dividend companies. Oil fell below $50 a barrel for the first time since October 2017.
Hospitals and health insurers slumped after a federal judge in Texas ruled that the 2010 Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Other stocks wobbled in morning trading, then plunged in the afternoon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 507 points after a 496 point drop Friday.
Amazon led a rout among retailers and tech companies including Microsoft turned sharply lower. Some of the largest losses went to utilities and real estate companies, which have done better than the rest of the market during the turbulence of the last three months.
“That is basically retail investors panicking,’ said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide Investment Management. “Investors basically are confusing the idea of a slowdown with a recession.”
But investors dumped almost everything. Less than 40 of the 500 stocks comprising the S&P 500 finished the day higher.
The S&P 500 index, the benchmark for many investors and funds, finished at its lowest level since Oct. 9, 2017. It has fallen 13.1 percent since its last record close on Sept. 20. The Russell 2000, an index of smaller companies, has dropped more than 20 percent since the end of August, meaning that index is now in what Wall Street calls a “bear market.”
Germany’s main stock index also fell into a bear market Monday as companies like Siemens and SAP kept falling.
Smaller U.S. stocks have taken dramatic losses as investors have lost confidence in the U.S. economy’s growth prospects. Smaller companies are considered more vulnerable in a downturn than larger companies because they are more dependent on economic growth and tend to have higher levels of debt.
Hackett said the current drop is similar to the market’s big plunge in late 2015 and early 2016, which was also tied to fears that the global economy was weakening in a hurry. But even though the economy is slowing down after its surge in 2017 and 2018, it should continue to do fairly well.
“It’s a slowdown from extremely high levels to healthy levels,” he said. “The globe isn’t going into a recession.”
The S&P 500 skidded 54.01 points, or 2.1 percent, at 2,545.94. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 507.53 points, or 2.1 percent, to 23,592.98. The Nasdaq composite fell 156.93 points, or 2.3 percent, to 6,753.73. The Russell 2000 index dipped 32.97 points, or 2.3 percent, to 1,378.14.
Following the health care ruling, hospital operator HCA dropped 2.8 percent to $123.1 and health insurer UnitedHealth lost 2.6 percent to $258.07. Centene, a health insurer that focuses on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance exchanges, fell 4.8 percent to $121.42 and Molina skidded 8.9 percent to $120.
Many experts expect the ruling will be overturned, but with the markets suffering steep declines in recent months, investors didn’t appear willing to wait and see.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 2.6 percent to $49.88 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 1.1 percent to $59.61 a barrel in London. Weaker economic growth would mean less demand for oil, and traders have been concerned there is too much crude supply on the market. That’s chopped oil prices by one-third since early October.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.86 percent from 2.89 percent.
The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again Wednesday, the fourth increase of this year. It’s been raising rates over the last three years, and investors will want to know if the Fed is scaling back its plans for further increases based on the turmoil in the stock market over the last few months and mounting evidence that world economic growth is slowing down.
Hackett, of Nationwide, said investors will be happy if the Fed adjusts its plans and projects fewer increases in interest rates next year. But he said investors might be startled if the Fed doesn’t raise rates this week, as has been widely expected.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Parliament will vote Jan. 14 on her deal setting terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union. She canceled a vote on the deal last week because it was clear legislators were going to reject it. May insists she can save the deal, but pressure is mounting for either a vote by lawmakers or a new referendum on the issue.
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in late March, and if it does so without a deal in place governing its trade and economic relationships with the bloc, it could bring huge disruptions to the British and European economies and financial markets.
Germany’s DAX lost 0.9 percent. That means the DAX, which represents Europe’s largest single economy, is also in a bear market. France’s CAC 40 and Britain’s FTSE 100 both fell 1.1 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.6 percent and the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was less than 0.1 percent lower. Both the Kospi and Hang Seng are in bear markets as well.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline shed 1.7 percent to $1.41 a gallon and heating oil slid 1 percent to $1.83 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 7.8 percent to $3.53 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose 0.8 percent to $1,251.80 an ounce. Silver added 0.8 percent to $14.76 an ounce. Copper dipped 0.3 percent to $2.75 a pound.
The dollar slipped to 112.75 yen from 113.29 yen. The euro rose to $1.1350 from $1.1303. The British pound rose to $1.2629 from $1.2579.
Trump Approves 2nd Round of Trade Aid Payments for US Farmers
U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he has authorized the second round of payments from a $12 billion aid package for farmers stung by the U.S. trade war with China, but did not specify an amount.
“Today I am making good on my promise to defend our Farmers & Ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. I have authorized Secretary Perdue to implement the 2nd round of Market Facilitation Payments,” he said in a Twitter post.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in July had authorized up to $12 billion in aid for farmers and ranchers hit by the fallout from Trump’s escalating trade war with China and the agency outlined the first round of payments.
An announcement on the second tranche had been expected in early December.
China had imposed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans in July in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.
Trump had promised the payments to farmers stung by the trade disputes.
Burnout, Stress Lead More Companies to Try Four-day Work Week
Work four days a week, but get paid for five? It sounds too good to be true, but companies around the world that have cut their work week have found that it leads to higher productivity, more motivated staff and less burnout.
“It is much healthier and we do a better job if we’re not working crazy hours,” said Jan Schulz-Hofen, founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, who introduced a four-day week to the company’s 10-member staff earlier this year.
In New Zealand, insurance company Perpetual Guardian reported a fall in stress and a jump in staff engagement after it tested a 32-hour week earlier this year.
Even in Japan, the government is encouraging companies to allow Monday mornings off, although other schemes in the workaholic country to persuade employees to take it easy have had little effect.
Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) is pushing for the whole country to move to a four-day week by the end of the century, a drive supported by the opposition Labour Party.
The TUC argues that a shorter week is a way for workers to share in the wealth generated by new technologies like machine learning and robotics, just as they won the right to the weekend off during the industrial revolution.
“It would reduce the stress of juggling working and family life and could improve gender equality. Companies that have already tried it say it’s better for productivity and staff well-being,” said TUC economic head Kate Bell.
Lucie Greene, trends expert at consultancy J. Walter Thompson, said there was a growing backlash against overwork, underlined by a wave of criticism after Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”
“People are starting to take a step back from the 24-hour digital life we have now and realize the mental health issues from being constantly connected to work,” Greene said.
A recent survey of 3,000 employees in eight countries including the United States, Britain and Germany found that nearly half thought they could easily finish their tasks in five hours a day if they did not have interruptions, but many are exceeding 40 hours a week anyway — with the United States leading the way, where 49 percent said they worked overtime.
“There has been work creep. Because you always have the technology, you are always working, so people are getting burned out,” said Dan Schawbel, director of executive development firm Future Workplace, which conducted the survey with Kronos.
Schulz-Hofen, a 36-year-old software engineer, tested the four-day week on himself after realizing he needed to slow down following a decade of intense work launching Planio, whose tools allowed him to track his time in detail.
“I didn’t get less work done in four days than in five because in five days, you think you have more time, you take longer, you allow yourself to have more interruptions, you have your coffee a bit longer or chat with colleagues,” Schulz-Hofen said. “I realized with four days, I have to be quick, I have to be focused if I want to have my free Friday.”
Schulz-Hofen and his team discussed various options before settling on everybody working Monday to Thursday. They rejected the idea of flexible hours because it adds administrative complexity, and were against a five-day week with shorter hours as it is too easy for overwork to creep back in.
Clients who call on a Friday hear a recorded message explaining why nobody is at the office.
“We got an unexpected reaction from customers. Most of our clients did not complain. They were just jealous,” Schulz-Hofen said.
Grey New York, an ad agency owned by WPP, launched a program in April to allow staff to work a four-day week for 85 percent of their full-time salary.
Schawbel expects the idea to catch on in more companies and countries, but probably not his own: “I think America will be the last country to give us Monday mornings off because we’re so used to this way of working.”
Guinea Bissau Women Entrepreneurs Share Ideas, Expand Business
A group of young female business owners in Guinea Bissau have banded together to learn more about the business world and increase sales. A year later, their efforts appear to be paying off. Ricci Shryock reports from the west African nation.
Debt Threat: Business Debt, Worries About it, Are up
Homeowners appear to have learned the lesson of the Great Recession about not taking on too much debt. There is some concern that Corporate America didn’t get the message.
For much of the past decade, companies have borrowed at super-low interest rates and used the money to buy back stock, acquire other businesses and refinance old debt. The vast majority of companies are paying their bills on time, thanks in large part to profits that have surged since the economy emerged from the Great Recession nine and a half years ago.
But with interest rates rising and U.S. economic growth expected to slow next year, worries are building from Washington to Wall Street that corporate debt is approaching potentially dangerous levels. U.S. corporate debt has grown by nearly two-thirds since 2008 to more than $9 trillion and, along with government debt, has ballooned much faster than other parts of the bond market. Investors are most concerned about companies at the weaker end of the financial-strength scale _ those considered most likely to default or to get downgraded to “junk” status should a recession hit.
“I’ve been more worried about the bond market than the equity market,” said Kirk Hartman, global chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Asset Management. “I think at some point, all the leverage in the system is going to rear its ugly head.”
Consider General Electric, which said in early October it would record a big charge related to its struggling power unit, one that ended up totaling $22 billion. Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s subsequently downgraded GE’s credit rating to three notches above “speculative” grade, which indicates a higher risk of default.
GE, with about $115 billion in total borrowings, is part of a growing group of companies concentrated at the lower end of investment-grade. Other high-profile names in this area within a few notches of junk grade include General Motors and Verizon Communications. They make up nearly 45 percent of the Bloomberg Barclays Credit index, more than quadruple their proportion during the early 1970s.
Credit-rating agencies say downgrades for GE, GM or Verizon aren’t imminent. But the concern for them, and broadly for this swelling group of businesses, is if profits start falling or the economy hits a recession.
If those companies do drop below investment grade, they’d be what investors call “fallen angels,” and they can trigger waves of selling. Many mutual funds and other investors are required to own only high-quality, investment-grade bonds — so they would have to sell any bonds that get cut to junk.
The forced selling would lead to a drop in bond prices, which could result in higher borrowing costs for companies, which hurts their ability to repay their debts, which could lead to even more selling.
Even the chairman of the Federal Reserve has taken notice of the rise in corporate debt. Jerome Powell said in a recent speech that business borrowing usually rises when the economy is growing. But he said it’s concerning that, over the last year, the companies increasing their borrowing the most are those already with high debt and interest burdens.
To be sure, many bond fund managers say companies were smart to borrow hefty sums at low rates. And at the moment, there are no outward signs of danger. The default rate for junk-rated corporate bonds was 2.6 percent last month, which is lower than the historical average, and S&P Global Fixed Income Research expects it to fall in upcoming months.
Even if the economy does fall into a recession, fund managers say losses won’t be to the same scale as 2008 when the financial crisis sent the S&P 500 to a drop of nearly 37 percent and the most popular category of bond funds to an average loss of 4.7 percent.
In his speech, Powell said he doesn’t see the weaker parts of the corporate debt market undermining the financial system in the event of an economic downturn, at least “for now.”
Other investors see the market’s growing worries as premature. Companies are still making record profits, which allow them to repay their debts, and consumer confidence is still high.
“There is a story out there that there’s a recession coming very soon, and you had better head for the hills,” said Warren Pierson, deputy chief investment officer at Baird Advisors. “We think that’s a pretty early call. We don’t see recession on the horizon.”
That’s why he and Mary Ellen Stanek, who run bond mutual funds at Baird, haven’t given up on corporate bonds, even if they’ve moderated how much they own.
But critics see some echoes of the financial crisis in today’s loosening lending standards. Consider leveraged loans, a section of the market that makes loans to companies with lots of debt or relatively weak finances. These loans have been popular with investors in recent years because they often have what are called floating rates, so they pay more in interest when rates are rising.
Paul Massaro, portfolio manager for floating-rate strategies at T. Rowe Price, says he’s still positive about this market in general. But his team of analysts has been finding more warning flags in offerings, where the terms of the deal may be overly friendly to borrowers and allow them to amass more debt than they should.
It’s gotten to the point where Massaro is participating in about 15 percent of all offerings today, down from 30 percent a few years ago.
Investors have largely been willing to stomach higher risk because they’ve been starved for income following years of very low interest rates.
As a result, some bonds that by many accounts look like risky junk bonds are trading at prices and yields that should be reserved for higher-quality bonds, say Tom McCauley and Yoav Sharon, who run the $976.3 million Driehaus Active Income fund. To take advantage, they’re increasingly “shorting” corporate bonds, which are trades that pay off if the bonds’ prices fall.
They recently began shorting bonds of a packaged goods company with a “BBB” rating that borrowed to help pay for a large acquisition, for example. A “BBB” rating is at the lower end of investment grade, and a drop to “BB” would send it into junk status.
With so much debt, McCauley and Sharon believe that it’s at risk of getting downgraded to junk and is not paying enough in yield to compensate for its risk.
“As we get into the later stages of the cycle, the sins of the early stages of the cycle tend to start showing up,” said Sharon. “We think that’s where we are today.”
Governments Agree on Rules for Implementing Climate Accord
After two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries agreed Saturday on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming. Fierce disagreements on two other climate issues were kicked down the road for a year to help bridge a chasm of opinions on the best solutions.
The deal agreed upon at U.N. climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks.
He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the agreement it didn’t like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all parties.
“We will all have to give in order to gain,” he said. “We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.”
The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.
Overhaul of global economy
And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.
Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of the meeting, oil-exporting nations the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report midway through this month’s talks in Katowice. That prompted an uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.
The final text at the U.N. talks omits a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.
Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time, after Friday’s scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal.
One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.
But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent.
Push from U.S.
Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and promote the use of coal.
“Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,” said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.
When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, “the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it’s largely succeeded.”
“Transparency is vital to U.S. interests,” added Nathaniel Keohane, a climate policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. He noted that the breakthrough in the 2015 Paris talks happened only after the U.S. and China agreed on a common framework for transparency.
“In Katowice, the U.S. negotiators have played a central role in the talks, helping to broker an outcome that is true to the Paris vision of a common transparency framework for all countries that also provides flexibility for those that need it,” said Keohane, calling the agreement “a vital step forward in realizing the promise of the Paris accord.”
Among the key achievements in Katowice was an agreement on how countries should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they’re taking to reduce them. Poor countries also secured assurances on getting financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable changes such as sea level rises and pay for damages that have already happened.
Some not hearing alarms
“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report” on the dire consequences of global warming.
But a central feature of the Paris Agreement — the idea that countries will ratchet up their efforts to fight global warming over time — still needs to be proved effective, he said.
“To bend the emissions curve, we now need all countries to deliver these revised plans at the special U.N. secretary-general summit in 2019. It’s vital that they do so,” Adow said.
In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions trading system was postponed to next year’s meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September.
Speaking hours before the final gavel, Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially at a time when multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism.
“The world has changed, the political landscape has changed,” she told The Associated Press. “Still, you’re seeing here that we’re able to make progress, we’re able to discuss the issues, we’re able to come to solutions.”
Stocks Plunge to 8-month Lows on Growth Fears; J&J Nosedives
Stocks staggered to eight-month lows Friday after weak economic data from China and Europe set off more worries about the global economy. Mounting tensions in Europe over Britain’s impeding departure from the European Union also darkened traders’ moods.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped as much as 563 points. On the benchmark S&P 500 index, health care and technology companies absorbed the worst losses. Johnson & Johnson plunged by the most in 16 years after Reuters reported that the company has known since the 1970s that its talc Baby Powder sometimes contained carcinogenic asbestos. The company denied the report.
China said industrial output and retail sales both slowed in November. That could be another sign that China’s trade dispute with the U.S. and tighter lending conditions are chilling its economy, which is the second-largest in the world. Meanwhile, purchasing managers in Europe signaled that economic growth was slipping.
Running out of steam?
Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said investors are concerned that weakness will make it way to the U.S. They’re wondering if the U.S. economy is likely to run out of steam sooner than they had thought.
“Market consensus has been that the next recession is probably in 2020 or beyond,” he said. Now, he said, the market is “really testing that assumption and trying to figure out whether it’s sooner.”
The S&P 500 index lost 50.59 points, or 1.9 percent, to 2,599.95, its lowest close since April 2. The Dow retreated 496.87 points, or 2 percent, to 24,100.51.
The Nasdaq composite slid 159.67 points, or 2.3 percent, to 6,910.66. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 21.89 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,410.81.
December is typically the best month of the year for stocks and Wall Street usually looks forward to a “Santa Claus rally” that adds to the year’s gains. With 10 trading days left this month, however, the S&P 500 is down 5.8 percent. That followed a small gain in November and a steep 6.9 percent drop in October.
Market value falls
Johnson & Johnson dropped 10 percent to $133 in very heavy trading. Its market value fell by $40 billion.
Reuters reported that court documents and test results show Johnson & Johnson has known for decades that its raw talc and finished Baby Powder sometimes contained asbestos, but that the company didn’t inform regulators or the public. The company called the story “false and inflammatory.”
In July the company lost a lawsuit from plaintiffs who argued that its products were linked to cases of ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. A St. Louis jury awarded plaintiffs $4.7 billion. Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of other lawsuits.
For more than 20 years, China has been one of the biggest contributors to growth in the global economy, and when investors see signs the Chinese economy is weakening, they expect it will affect other countries like the U.S. that sell things to China.
Protests hurt France
In Europe, the index of purchase managers fell in France, which is racked by protests, to a level that points toward economic contraction. Germany’s reading still pointed to growth, but it fell to its lowest level in four years.
Those reports canceled out some potential good news on trade: the Chinese government announced a 90-day suspension of tariff increases on U.S. cars, trucks and auto imports. It’s part of a cease-fire that China and the U.S. announced earlier this month to give them time to work on other issues.
Among technology companies, Apple dipped 3.2 percent to $165.48. Adobe skidded 7.3 percent to $230 after its fourth-quarter profit disappointed investors and it also forecast lower-than-expected earnings in the current fiscal year. Industrial companies sank as well. Boeing lost 2.1 percent to $318.75.
Oil prices again turned lower, as a slower global economy would weaken demand for oil and other fuels. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 2.6 percent to $51.20 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 1.9 percent to settle at $60.28 a barrel in London.
European Union leaders rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request to make changes to their deal covering Britain’s departure from the EU on March 29. British legislators aren’t satisfied with the terms May negotiated, and she canceled a scheduled vote earlier this week because it was clear Parliament wouldn’t approve it. Britain’s economy and financial markets across Europe face severe disruption without an agreement.
European bonds slide
European bond prices rose and yields fell. Both the British pound and the euro weakened. The pound slipped to $1.2579 from $1.2660 and the euro fell to $1.1303 from $1.1367.
Germany’s DAX declined 0.5 percent and the CAC 40 in France declined 0.8 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slid 2 percent and the Kospi in South Korea lost 1.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 1.6 percent.
Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.89 percent 2.90 percent.
In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline lost 3 percent to $1.43 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.7 percent to $1.85 a gallon and natural gas dropped 7.2 percent to $3.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold fell 0.5 percent to $1,241.40 an ounce. Silver dipped 1.5 percent to $14.64 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.77 a pound.
The dollar fell to 113.29 yen from 113.60 yen.
Nigerian Governor: Buhari Says Economy in ‘Bad Shape’
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said the country’s economy was in “bad shape,” the governor of a northwestern state told reporters Friday after a meeting with governors from across the country.
Buhari will seek a second term in an election to be held in February in which the economy is likely to be a campaign issue.
Africa’s top oil producer last year emerged from its first recession in 25 years, caused by low crude prices, but growth remains sluggish.
“Mr. President, as usual, responded by telling us that the economy is in a bad shape and we have to come together and think and rethink on the way forward,” Abdulaziz Yari, who chairs the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, told reporters when asked how Buhari answered requests for a bailout to some states.
“Mr. President talked to us in the manner that we have a task ahead of us. So, we should tighten our belts and see how we can put the Nigerian economy in the right direction,” said Yari, governor of Zamfara state. He spoke to journalists in the capital, Abuja.
The main opposition candidate, businessman and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has criticized Buhari’s handling of the economy and said that, if elected, he would aim to double the size of the economy to $900 billion by 2025.
Nigeria’s economy grew by 1.81 percent in the third quarter of this year, the statistics office said Monday. And on Friday, it said consumer prices had risen 11.28 percent in November compared with a year ago.