The U.S. leading index, a key barometer of economic conditions, decreased 0.7 percent in September, The Conference Board reported today. The leading index now stands at 136.8 (1996=100). Based on revised data, this index decreased 0.1 percent in August and decreased 0.1 percent in July. During the six-month span through September, the leading index increased 0.4 percent, with seven out of 10 components advancing. The leading index decreased sharply in September as the economic impact of the hurricanes in the Gulf region began to be reflected in the component data. September's decline in the leading index is its third consecutive fall. In September, the largest negative contributors to the leading index were the index of consumer expectations and initial claims for unemployment insurance. The growth rate of the leading index has been slowing down steadily from a peak growth of about 10 percent at the end of 2003, and it is now fluctuating in the 0.5 to 1.5 percent annual rate range i...
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