The Conference Board announced today that its leading economic index rose 0.1% in April, the same gain posted in March after a 0.3% decline in February. The leading index is considered a barometer of the U.S. economy for the next three to six months.
The two months of increases slowed the rate of decline of the leading index during the past six months to -1.2%, which is still considered by many economists to provide a signal of recession.
The leading index is comprised of 10 separate indicators, including stock prices, the interest rate spread, and housing permits, which made large positive contributions to the index in April, and average weekly hours and consumer expectations, both of which declined sharply.
The companion coincident index, which measures industrial production and employment, both of which decreased in April, and personal income less transfer payments and real manufacturing and trade sales, which declined, remained unchanged for the month.
The lagging index, which measures commercial and industrial loans outstanding, change in CPI for services, and ratio of consumer installment credit to personal income, all of which rose, and average duration of unemployment (inverted), average prime rate charged by banks, and change in labor cost per unit of output, which all declined, rose 0.1%.
In a statement released with the indicators, the Conference Board said, "The current behavior of the composite indexes so far still suggests that economic activity is likely to remain weak in the near term."