Economic Index Declines Again in April, Pointing to Slower Growth

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. decreased 0.6% in April to 101.8, after decreasing 0.3% in March. Over the six-month period between October 2023 and April 2024, the LEI contracted 1.9%—a smaller decrease than its 3.5% decline over the previous six months.

“Another decline in the U.S. LEI confirms that softer economic conditions lay ahead,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, senior manager, business cycle indicators, at The Conference Board. “Deterioration in consumers’ outlook on business conditions, weaker new orders, a negative yield spread and a drop in new building permits fueled April’s decline. In addition, stock prices contributed negatively for the first time since October of last year. 

“While the LEI’s six-month and annual growth rates no longer signal a forthcoming recession, they still point to serious headwinds to growth ahead. Indeed, elevated inflation, high interest rates, rising household debt and depleted pandemic savings are all expected to continue weighing on the U.S. economy in 2024. As a result, we project that real GDP growth will slow to under 1% over the Q2 to Q3 2024 period.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index (CEI) for the U.S. rose 0.2% in April 2024 to 112.3, after also increasing 0.2% in March. As a result, the CEI was up 0.9% over the six-month period ending April 2024, slightly ahead of its 0.8% increase over the previous six months. The CEI’s component indicators—payroll employment, personal income less transfer payments, manufacturing and trade sales, and industrial production—are included among the data used to determine recessions in the U.S. All four components of the index improved last month. Personal income less transfer payments made the largest positive contribution to the Index.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index (LAG) for the U.S. increased 0.4% in April 2024 to 119.5, after remaining unchanged in March. The LAG was up 1.1% over the six-month period from October 2023 and April 2024, a substantial improvement of a 0.3% increase over the previous six months.

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