Economic Indicators Fall; Breadth of Decline Narrows

The nation’s recession may continue through the summer, but the intensity is likely to ease, according to The Conference Board, whose Leading Economic Index released today showed a 0.3% decline in March. “There have been some intermittent signs of improvement in the economy in April, but the leading economic index and most of its components are still pointing down,” says Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board. The index has not risen in nine consecutive months. Building permits, stock prices, and the index of supplier deliveries made large negative contributions to the index in March, more than offsetting continued positive contributions from real money supply and the yield spread, the board said in its report. In the six months through March, the index fell 2.5%, faster than the decrease of 1.4% for the previous six months. And the weaknesses among the leading indicators have remained widespread in recent months. “The economy is at an inflection point but has not yet reached a turning point,” Sara Johnson, an economist at IHS Global Insight and chairman of NABE’s industry survey committee told Bloomberg News. “Key indicators — industry demand, employment, capital spending and profitability — are still declining, but the breadth of the decline is narrowing.” The Conference Board’s Coincident Economic Index for the U.S. declined 0.4% in March — following a 0.6% decline in February — driven by the number of employees on nonagricultural payrolls and industrial production, while The Board’s Lagging Economic index fell 0.4%. Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments.

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