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For the first time in 18 months, strengths among the components used to establish the Leading Economic Index exceeded the weaknesses, according to a report from The Conference Board. At the same time, the Coincident Economic Index and the Lagging Economic Index each fell slightly.
Seven of the ten indicators used for the LEI in the U.S. increased in April, led by increases in stock prices and interest rate spread. The LEI rose 1% to 99.0 in April, the first increase in seven months. For the six months ending in April, the index has fallen 0.6%.
The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. has been generally falling since the middle of 2007, but the pace of its decline has slowed substantially in recent months. With this month's sharp and widespread increase, the six-month decline in the index is at its slowest since the fourth quarter of 2007.
The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index for the U.S. fell 0.2% in April, bringing the index to 101.1. Continued declines in employment and industrial production drove in decline. The index decreased 3.5% between October 2008 and April 2009, faster than the decline of 1.8% for the previous six months. Real GDP contracted at a 6.1% annual rate in the first quarter.
Taking the LEI and the CEI together, the behavior of the composite economic indexes suggests that the contraction in economic activity will continue in the near term, but will likely become less severe in upcoming months.
The ratio of consumer installment credit to personal income improved in April, the only component of the Lagging Economic Index to do so. As a result, the LAG decreased 0.5% to 112.5.