Housing Offsets Manufacturing In Index Decline

The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators for the United States decreased two-tenths of a percentage point in August as lower consumer expectations and declining building permits offset such positives as manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials. The Conference Board index, which now stands at 137.6 (1996=100), has declined in five of the past eight months. Only three of the 10 elements that make up the index were positive in August; seven were negative.

The leading index suggests the track of U.S. economy for the next three to six months, and the August decline is in line with many economists' forecasts for slower growth of GDP for a few months.

"Weaknesses and strengths among the leading indicators have been fairly balanced in recent months, resulting in a trend that is more flat than declining," says the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group. "The behavior of the leading index so far suggests that [U.S.] economic growth should continue at a slow but steady pace in the near term."

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