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Utilization of US factories declines to 51/2-year low

The recession pulled the nation's factories down to 72.9 percent of capacity last month - under the rate of the 1980 recession and the worst rate since July 1975 - the Federal Reserve Board reported Monday.

The auto industry is down to its lowest operating rate since a General Motors strike in 1970 - ''below 50 percent'' of capacity, the board said.

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The Fed's measure of capacity utilization has been sliding since August.