Leading Economic Index Declines

New York, April 21--The Conference Board reported today that the Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators declined 0.4 percent in March, following a 0.1 percent increase in February, and a 0.3 percent decline in January. "The Leading Economic Indicators fell in March, after rising three times in the prior four months," says Ken Goldstein, Economist, The Conference Board. "The Coincident Indicators rose in March, for the fifth time in the last six months. This suggests that moderate economic growth continued through the first quarter. The economy is expanding, but at a pace that is choppy. "Energy prices are again being blamed for potentially leading the economy into a soft patch. Of more concern has been the modest levels of confidence -- both consumer and business confidence." The Conference Board reports that the Coincident Index rose 0.2 percent in March, following a 0.1 percent increase in February and a 0.5 percent decline in January. The Lagging Index declined 0.1 percent in March, following a 0.3 percent increase in February, and a 1.0 percent increase in January. The Conference Board U.S. Business Cycle Indicators U.S. Leading Economic Indicators and related composite indexes for MARCH 2005 The Conference Board announced today that the U.S. leading index decreased 0.4 percent, the coincident index increased 0.2 percent and the lagging index decreased 0.1 percent in March. * The leading index declined in March following a small increase in February. The leading index has been essentially flat since October 2004 following a small decline over the previous five months. In addition, there have been more weaknesses than strengths among the components of the leading index in recent months. * The coincident index, an index of current economic activity, increased again in March. The coincident index has been increasing at a relatively steady 2.5 percent annual rate since April 2003, and the strength continues to be widespread. At the same time, the growth rate of real GDP has been fluctuating around a 4.0 percent annual rate, including 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004. * The leading index has been increasing since the end of 2001, but the upward trend has been briefly interrupted twice -- once from May to October 2002 and again from June to October 2004. The recent flatness of the leading index (compared to its long-term trend of 1.5 percent growth) is consistent with the economy continuing to expand in the near term, but more slowly than its long-term average rate.