Conference Board: Economy Shows No Sign of Strength
NEW YORK — The Conference Board's Labor Economist indicated Monday that the economy is displaying no sign of strength, predicting that it's quite possible the economy could become even weaker in the second half of the year.
More specifically, Ken Goldstein, labor economist for the Conference Board, said, "The domestic economy is showing no sign of strength. The Leading Index started to signal slow growth last spring, and the Coincident Index has been flat to declining since last fall.
"The deep financial crisis, a prolonged, intense slump in housing, high gasoline and food prices, weak consumer confidence and a weak dollar are all combining to produce unrelenting downward pressure on economic activity. This is also why it wouldn't take much to push the economy so that it's even weaker in the second half of 2008," he added.
The Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators dipped 0.1 percent in June, following a downwardly revised 0.2-percent decline in May and a 0.1-percent increase in April.
The Conference Board said that the Coincident Index increased 0.1 percent in June, following a 0.1-percent decline in May and no change in April.
Meanwhile, the Lagging Index declined 0.3 percent in June, following a 0.2-percent decline in May and a 0.1-percent dip in April.
The leading index declined for the second consecutive month in June, and May's small increase was revised down to a small decline as a result of data revisions in average work week in manufacturing and manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials, officials indicated.
"Real money supply, stock prices and weekly initial claims made very large negative contributions to the index in June, more than offsetting positive contributions from building permits, the interest rate spread and supplier deliveries," executives said.
The decline in the leading index has moderated somewhat, and the six-month change in the index has picked up to -0.9 percent (a -1.7 percent annual rate) in June, up from -1.7 percent (a -3.4 percent annual rate) at the end of the first quarter. However, the weaknesses among the leading indicators continue to be widespread.
Moving on, the coincident index increased slightly in June, following a small decline in May. Industrial production contributed positively to the index this month, while employment continued to decline.
During the six-month period from December to June, the coincident index decreased 0.3 percent (a -0.6 percent annual rate), in line with the six-month change at the end of the first quarter. The strengths among its components have been balanced with the weaknesses, officials noted. The lagging index declined again in June, and the coincident to lagging ratio increased for the second straight month.
After pausing in March and April, the leading index resumed declining in May and June. In addition, the weaknesses among its components have remained widespread over the past six months.
Meanwhile, the coincident index, a measure of current economic activity, has been flat in recent months, and is slightly below its level at the start of the year. Real GDP growth has fallen sharply, to an 0.8-percent average annual rate for the first quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2007, down from an average annual rate of 4.4 percent for the previous two quarters.
All in all, the behavior of the composite indexes suggests that the risks for further weakening in the economy in the near term remain elevated, the Conference Board stated.
Four of the 10 indicators that make up the leading index increased in June.
The positive contributors, beginning with the largest positive contributor, were building permits, interest rate spread, index of supplier deliveries (vendor performance) and manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials.
The negative contributors, beginning with the largest negative contributor, were real money supply, stock prices, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), average weekly manufacturing hours, index of consumer expectations and manufacturers' new orders for non-defense capital goods.
The leading index now stands at 101.7 (2004=100). Based on revised data, this index decreased 0.2 percent in May and increased 0.1 percent in April.
During the six-month span through June, the leading index decreased 0.9 percent, with three out of 10 components advancing (diffusion index, six-month span equals 30 percent).
Three of the four indicators that make up the coincident index increased in June.
The positive contributors to the index, beginning with the largest positive contributor, were industrial production, personal income less transfer payments, along with manufacturing and trade sales. The negative contributor was employees on non-agricultural payrolls.
The coincident index now stands at 106.9 (2004=100). This index decreased 0.1 percent in May and remained unchanged in April.
During the six-month period through June, the coincident index decreased 0.3 percent, with two out of four components advancing (diffusion index, six-month span equals 50 percent).
The lagging index stands at 111.5 (2004=100) in June, with one of the seven components advancing.
The positive contributor to the index was the change in CPI for services.
The negative contributors, beginning with the largest negative contributor, were commercial and industrial loans outstanding, average duration of unemployment (inverted), change in labor cost per unit of output and ratio of consumer installment credit to personal income.
The ratio of manufacturing and trade inventories to sales and average prime rate charged by banks held steady in June. Based on revised data, the lagging index decreased 0.2 percent in May and decreased 0.1 percent in April.