Industry News

Economy hits soft patch

U.S. leading index falls in January

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The U.S. leading index, a key barometer of economic conditions, fell 0.3 percent in January, The Conference Board reported today. The leading index now stands at 115.6 (1996=100). Based on revised data, this index increased 0.3 percent in December and increased 0.3 percent in November. During the six-month span through January, the leading index decreased 0.3 percent, with five out of 10 components advancing. Despite January's decline there were significant upward revisions to the leading index from August to December. In addition, there has been more widespread strength in the leading indicators in recent months, with weakness concentrated in vendor performance and the interest-rate spread The leading index was on a rising trend from early 2003 to the middle of 2004, but has now fluctuated around a flat trend over the last six or seven months (which is below its long-term trend of a 1.5 percent annual rate). The recent behavior of the leading index is consistent with the economy...