U.S. Leading Indicators Down 0.5%

The index of leading economic indicators -- a gauge of economic activity in the coming six to nine months, fell 0.5% in May, the Conference Board said Monday. This is the fifth straight month without an increase in the leading index of the business research group. In April, the index was revised to show no change compared with the initial estimate of a 0.2% decline. The report was weaker than the 0.3% drop expected on Wall Street.

Two other indexes in the report were higher. The coincident index, indicative of current conditions, rose 0.2%, while the lagging index rose 0.3%. The leading index has now declined at a 2.2% annual rate over the last six months. It has declined by 1.9% over the last 12 months.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said the U.S. is following a global cooling trend that may be linked to surging oil prices. "The leading economic indicators are suggesting slower growth setting in during the third quarter," he said. "This is not just a domestic phenomenon. Declines or slower increases appear in at least six of the eight countries for which the Conference Board calculates leading indexes. Energy prices are one factor driving this global trend. Of more concern is the level of confidence of both consumers and chief executives, which has been choppy."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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