U.S. Index Suggests Economic Weakness, But Less Intense

Contraction in activity could become less severe in upcoming months, says Conference Board

A forward-looking U.S. economic index fell again in March, but pointed to a contraction that is not as intense as over the past few months, the Conference Board said on April 20. The business research firm said its index of leading economic indicators declined 0.3% in March, following a 0.2% fall in February, and a 0.2% drop in January.

The index "remains on a general downtrend that began in July 2007, with widespread weaknesses among its components," the Conference Board said. "However, its rate of decline has moderated somewhat this year."

The report "suggests that the economic recession that started in December 2007 will continue in the near term, but that the contraction in activity could become less severe in upcoming months," it added.

"The recession may continue through the summer, but the intensity will ease. There have been some intermittent signs of improvement in the economy in April, but the leading economic index and most of its components are still pointing down, said Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board.

Other indexes in the survey were also weaker. The coincident index of current conditions fell 0.4% in March after a 0.6% drop in February.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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