Widespread weakness stunts economy

March 21, 2003

Conference Board's leading indicators decline in February

Inman News Features

The Conference Board today reported its Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.4 percent in February and now stands at 111.1 (1996=100).

The widespread weakness in stock prices, consumer expectations and the labor market reflect a month of uncertainty over the war with Iraq, as well as severe winter weather, according to The Conference Board.

The leading index fell in February for the first time since September 2002. The index has been fluctuating around a flat trend over the past 15 months with a balance between rising and falling components. At this point, the leading index is suggesting that economic growth may be on the sluggish side in the second quarter, according to The Conference Board.

Six of the ten indicators that make up the leading index decreased in February. The negative contributors to the index (beginning with the largest negative contributor) were stock prices, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), index of consumer expectations, interest rate spread, manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials and manufacturers' new orders for nondefense capital goods. The positive contributors (beginning with the largest positive contributor) were real money supply, vendor performance and building permits. Average weekly manufacturing hours held steady in February.

The Conference Board also reported its index of lagging economic indicators dipped 0.1 percent to 99.3 (1996=100) in February, with three of its seven components declining.

The Conference Board is a business membership and research network founded in 1916.

Copyright: Inman News Service

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