U.S. Leading Economic Index Weaker Than Expected

Manufacturing and consume sectors are off but consumer sector is holding up.

A key measure of future U.S. economic activity turned sharply lower in February, reflecting turmoil in the housing and manufacturing sectors, the Conference Board said March 22. The business research group's index of leading economic indicators fell 0.5% following a revised 0.3% decline in January.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said the overall economic outlook remains positive despite the weak figure "The housing and manufacturing sectors are clearly going through a correction, but the consumer sector appears to be holding up," he said. The index is meant to gauge economic activity in the coming six to nine months.

"Overall, the consumer has shown remarkable resiliency in the face of wide swings in energy prices, a slowing in home prices and a sharp cooling off in home building," Goldstein added.

The index was below the average Wall Street forecast of a 0.3% decline and the latest in a string of weaker-than-expected economic reports.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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