Conference Board Leading Economic Index: Fifth Monthly Increase

July 18, 2014

by Doug Short

The Latest Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for June is now available. The index rose 0.3 percent to 102.2 percent. May was revised upward from 101.4 to 1.07 percent (2004 = 100). The latest number came in slightly below the 0.5 percent forecast by Investing.com.

Here is an overview from the LEI technical notes:

The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. increased for the fifth consecutive month in June. The positive contributions from the financial and new orders components more than offset declines in building permits and the labor market indicators. In the first half of this year, the leading economic index increased 2.7 percent (about a 5.5 percent annual rate), slower than the growth of 3.5 percent (about a 7.2 percent annual rate) during the second half of 2013. In addition, the strengths among the leading indicators continue to be more widespread than the weaknesses. [Full notes in PDF]

Here is a chart of the LEI series with documented recessions as identified by the NBER.

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And here is a closer look at this indicator since 2000. We can more readily see that the recovery from the 2000 trough weakened in 2012 but began trending higher in the latter part of the year.

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For a more details on the latest data, here is an excerpt from the press release:

“Broad-based increases in the LEI over the last six months signal an economy that is expanding in the near term and may even somewhat accelerate in the second half,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Economist at The Conference Board. “Housing permits, the weakest indicator during this period, reflects some risk to this improving outlook. But favorable financial conditions, generally positive trends in the labor markets and the outlook for new orders in manufacturing have offset the housing market weakness over the past six months.”

“The CEI shows the pace of economic activity continued to expand moderately through June,” said Ken Goldstein, Economist at The Conference Board. “Stronger consumer demand driven by sustained job gains and improving confidence remains the main source of improvement for the U.S. economy. In addition to a stronger housing market, more business investment could also provide an upside to the overall economy.”

For a better understanding of the relationship between the LEI and recessions, the next chart shows the percentage off the previous peak for the index and the number of months between the previous peak and official recessions.

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Here is a look at the rate of change, which gives a closer look at behavior of the index in relation to recessions.

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And finally, here is the same snapshot, zoomed in to the data since 2000.

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Check back next month for an updated analysis.

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