Leading Economic Indicators Signal Recession—Again!

A key measure of the direction of the U.S. economy fell for the 19th straight month and once again indicated that a recession is looming.

The leading economic index fell 0.8 percent in October, the Conference Board said Monday. The LEI is based on 10 indicators that tend to forecast the direction of the economy.

Economists had expected a milder decline of 0.8 percent.

The last time the index declined for 19 months in a row was during the Great Recession when it fell from the end of 2007 through 2009.

The decline in the index has slowed. LEI contracted by 3.3 percent over the six-month period between April and October 2023,  a smaller decline than the 4.5 percent contraction over the previous six months.

“The US LEI trajectory remained negative, and its six- and twelve-month growth rates also held in negative territory in October,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, Senior Manager, Business Cycle Indicators, at The Conference Board.  “Among the leading indicators, deteriorating consumers’ expectations for business conditions, lower ISM Index of New Orders, falling equities, and tighter credit conditions drove the index’s most recent decline.”

The index is once again signaling a recession in the near term, albeit a mild one.

“After a pause in September, the LEI resumed signaling recession in the near term. The Conference Board expects elevated inflation, high interest rates, and contracting consumer spending—due to depleting pandemic saving and mandatory student loan repayments—to tip the US economy into a very short recession. We forecast that real GDP will expand by just 0.8 percent in 2024,” Sabinska-La Monica said.



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