U.S. Leading Economic Index Edges Up
NEW YORK, May 19 -- The Conference Board reports today that the Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators increased 0.1 percent in April, following a 0.1 percent increase in March, and a -0.3 percent decline in February, signaling that the current slowdown will be short-lived.
Says Ken Goldstein, Labor Economist at The Conference Board: "The leading index edged up by 0.1 percent in April, the same increase as in March, after declining for five straight months. These data certainly reflect a weak economy but not one in recession. Moreover, the small increases in the Leading Index in both March and again in April could be a signal that the economy may not weaken further."
The Conference Board reports that the Coincident Index was unchanged in April and March, following a -0.3 percent decline in February. The Lagging Index increased by 0.1 percent in April, following a 0.4 percent rise in March and February.
-- The leading index increased for the second straight month in April.
Stock prices, the interest rate spread, and housing permits made large
positive contributions to the index this month, more than offsetting
the sharp declines in average weekly hours and consumer expectations.
In April, the six-month rate of decline in the leading index slowed to -1.2 percent (a -2.3 percent annual rate), from - 2.4 percent (a -4.7 percent annual rate) from July 2007 to January 2008. In addition, the weaknesses among the leading indicators have become somewhat less widespread in the last two months.
-- The coincident index was unchanged again in April, and this measure
of current economic activity has not increased since October 2007. Industrial
production and employment decreased this month, but these declines were
offset by gains in personal income less transfer payments* and real manufacturing
and trade sales*. The six-month change in the coincident index continued
to fall, to -0.4 percent (a -0.7 percent annual rate) in April, down
from an increase of 0.3 percent (a 0.6 percent annual rate) from July
2007 to January 2008.
The lagging index continued to increase this month and as a result, the coincident to lagging ratio decreased further.
-- After declining steadily since the middle of 2007, the leading index
appears to have stabilized lately, increasing slightly in March and April.
Meanwhile, the coincident index declined slightly since October 2007
and the weaknesses among its components have been widespread in recent
months. During the first quarter, real GDP expanded at a 0.6 percent
annual rate, the same growth rate that prevailed in the fourth quarter
of 2007. The current behavior of the composite indexes so far still suggests
that economic activity is likely to remain weak in the
Six of the ten indicators that make up the leading index increased in April. The positive contributors -- beginning with the largest positive contributor -- were stock prices, interest rate spread, building permits, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), index of supplier deliveries (vendor performance) and manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials*. The negative contributors -- beginning with the largest negative contributor -- were index of consumer expectations, average weekly manufacturing hours, and manufacturers' new orders for nondefense capital goods*. Real money supply* held steady in April.
The leading index now stands at 102.0 (2004=100). Based on revised data, this index increased 0.1 percent in March and decreased 0.3 percent in February. During the six-month span through April, the leading index decreased 1.2 percent, with four out of ten components advancing (diffusion index, six-month span equals 40 percent).
Two of the four indicators that make up the coincident index increased in April. The positive contributors to the index -- beginning with the larger positive contributor -- were personal income less transfer payments* and manufacturing and trade sales*. The negative contributors were industrial production and employees on nonagricultural payrolls.
The coincident index now stands at 106.9 (2004=100). This index remained
unchanged in March and decreased 0.3 percent in February. During the
six-month period through April, the coincident index decreased 0.4 percent.
The lagging index stands at 112.2 (2004=100) in April, with three of
the seven components advancing. The positive contributors to the index
-- beginning with the largest positive contributor -- were commercial
and industrial loans outstanding*, change in CPI for services, and ratio
consumer installment credit to personal income*. The negative contributors -- beginning with the largest negative contributor -- were average duration of unemployment (inverted), average prime rate charged by banks, and change in labor cost per unit of output*. The ratio of manufacturing and trade inventories to sales* held steady in April. Based on revised data, the
lagging index increased 0.4 percent in March and increased 0.4 percent in February.
SOURCE The Conference Board
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