NEW YORK -- The Conference Board reports today that the Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators declined 0.3 percent in February, following a 0.4 percent decline in January, and a 0.1 percent decline in December.
The leading index has declined for the fifth straight month.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), building permits, vendor performance, consumer expectations and stock prices made large negative contributions to the index this month, more than offsetting the positive contributions from money supply and interest rate spread.
“The economy may be grinding to a halt. The leading index has declined five months in a row, and the coincident index stopped increasing in October. Growth will be weak this spring. A small contraction in economic activity cannot be ruled out. The economic signals are flashing yellow,” said Ken Goldstein, labor economist at The Conference Board.
The leading index has declined 1.5 percent (about a 3.0 percent annual rate) during the six-month span from August 2007 through February 2008. In addition, only two components out of ten have increased from August to February.
Average weekly manufacturing hours held steady in February.