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Coincident Index up modestly again
Jan '08
The Conference Board announced that the U.S. leading index decreased 0.2 percent, the coincident index increased 0.1 percent and the lagging index increased 0.4 percent in December.

The leading index decreased again in December, the third consecutive decline, and it has been down in four of the last six months. Housing permits made the largest negative contribution to the index.

Average working hours in manufacturing also made a large negative contribution to the index this month, followed by smaller declines in manufacturers' new orders for nondefense capital goods, initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), the index of consumer expectations, and interest rate spread.

With this month's decline, the leading index is down 0.8 percent (a decline of 1.6 percent annual rate) from June to December, and it is 1.4 percent below its December 2006 level.

While the strengths and weaknesses among its components were roughly balanced throughout most of 2007, weaknesses have become more widespread in the last two months.

The coincident index increased modestly again in December, and all the components except for the industrial production index made small positive contributions this month.

The coincident index increased 0.7 percent (a 1.5 percent annual rate) from June to December and the strengths among the coincident indicators remained very widespread.

The coincident index, an index of current economic activity, has continued to increase on a steady upward trend, but its growth has been slowing in the fourth quarter. The lagging index increased again in December, and the ratio of coincident to lagging indexes declined again.

The leading index has weakened sharply since mid-2007, with widespread weakness among its components in the last two months, and it has returned to the level attained in mid-2005.

However, despite the spreading weakness, the index has declined only 1.5 percent (-0.8 percent at an annual rate) from its highest level in January 2006, compared to a decrease of about 3.0 percent (-2.6 percent at an annual rate) between its previous peak in January 2000 and March 2001.

In addition, real GDP grew at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent through the third quarter of 2007 (including a 4.9 percent annual rate growth in the third quarter).

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