Conference Board Leading Economic Index: Unchanged in June

by: Doug Short

The June Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for June was released yesterday. The index remained unchanged at 95.3 percent from a 0.1 percent upward revision for May (2004 = 100). The forecast was for a 0.3 percent increase.

Here first is an overview of yesterday's release from the LEI technical notes:

The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. was unchanged in June. The improving indicators were yield spread, the Leading Credit Index™ (inverted), initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted) and consumer expectations for business conditions. Negative contributions came from building permits, ISM® new orders and declining stock prices. In the six-month period ending June 2013, the leading economic index increased 1.7 percent (about a 3.4 percent annual rate), faster than the growth of 1.1 percent (about a 2.2 percent annual rate) during the previous six months. In addition, the strengths among the leading indicators remain widespread. [Full notes in PDF format]

Here is a chart of the LEI series with documented recessions as identified by the NBER.

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And here is a closer look at this indicator since 2000. We can more readily see that the recovery from the 2000 trough weakened in 2012 but began trending higher in the latter part of the year.

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For a more details on the latest data, here is an excerpt from the press release:

Says Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at The Conference Board: "The U.S. LEI was flat in June. Declines in building permits, new orders and stock prices were offset by gains in consumer expectations, initial claims for unemployment insurance, and other financial indicators. However, the LEI's six-month growth rate remains positive, suggesting the economy will continue expanding through the end of the year."

Says Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board: "Some segments of the economy are turning around faster than others, resulting in positive but moderate growth. The biggest uncertainties remain the pace of business spending, the improvements in consumer spending power and the impact of slower global growth on U.S. exports."

For a better understanding of the relationship between the LEI and recessions, the next chart shows the percentage off the previous peak for the index and the number of months between the previous peak and official recessions.

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Here is a look at the rate of change, which gives a closer look at behavior of the index in relation to recessions.

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And finally, here is the same snapshot, zoomed in to the data since 2000.

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Check back next month for an updated analysis.