March 19, 2009

Leading indicator dropped in February

The U.S. leading index fell in 0.4 points in February after rising in January, The Conference Board, an economic research group, said Thursday.

The index measuring future economic conditions was dragged down by declines initial claims for unemployment benefits, stock prices and consumer expectations. In addition, average hours of manufacturing declined, The Conference Board said.

Six of 10 composite categories made gains but couldn't produce a positive overall figure for the leading index that fell to 98.5.

The index uses 2004 as a base starting point, assigning that year a value of 100.

In the month, supplier deliveries, building permits and new orders for consumer goods and manufacturing orders for defense goods made gains.

The coincident index, measuring current conditions, also fell, dropping 3.1 points to 102.5.

Manufacturing and trade sales were positive contributors to the index in February, while declines were noted in industrial production and non-agricultural payrolls.

The Conference Board noted a downward trend in the leading index that began in July 2007, moderated slightly in recent months. Meanwhile, declines in the coincident index accelerated in recent months.

The indexes add up to continued economic recession at least for the near term, The Conference Board said.