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Released: Thursday, November 21, 2002

The Conference Board announced today that the U.S. leading, coincident and lagging indexes all held steady in October.

  • Strong real money growth and lower unemployment claims in October offset weak consumer expectations and faster deliveries, as measured by vendor performance.
  • The coincident index performance continues to suggest a recovering yet fragile economy. Industrial production has shed some of its gains from the first half of the year and nonagricultural employment has essentially remained unchanged. Moderate growth in personal income and manufacturing and trade sales continue to sustain economic growth.
  • Although the leading index has been flat or declining over the past five months, it is only 0.2 percent below its level from April of this year.

Leading Indicators. Six of the ten indicators that make up the leading index increased in October. The positive contributors to the index - beginning with the largest positive contributor - were real money supply*, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods*, building permits, interest rate spread, and manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials*. The four negative contributors - from the largest negative contributor to the smallest – were index of consumer expectations, vendor performance, average weekly manufacturing hours, and stock prices.

The leading index now stands at 111.4 (1996=100). Based on revised data, this index decreased 0.4 percent in September and decreased 0.2 percent in August. During the six-month span through October, the leading index decreased 0.2 percent, with six of the ten components advancing (diffusion index, six-month span equals 40 percent).

Coincident Indicators. Two of the four indicators that make up the coincident index increased in October. The larger contributor to the index was personal income less transfer payments*, followed by manufacturing and trade sales*. Industrial production decreased in October while employees on nonagricultural payrolls held steady.

Holding steady, the coincident index now stands at 115.1 (1996=100). Based on revised data, this index held steady in September and increased 0.1 percent in August. During the six-month period through October, the coincident index increased 0.6 percent.

Lagging Indicators. The lagging index held steady at 100.0 (1996=100) in October. Two of the seven components declined in October. The negative contributors to the index – beginning with the larger negative contributor – were commercial and industrial loans outstanding* and change in CPI for services. The positive contributors to the index were average duration of unemployment, change in labor cost per unit of output*, ratio of consumer installment credit to personal income*, and ratio of manufacturing and trade inventories to sales*. Average prime rate charged by banks held steady in October. Based on revised data, the lagging index decreased 0.5 percent in September and decreased 0.2 percent in August.

Data Availability. The data series used by The Conference Board to compute the three composite indexes and reported in the tables in this release are those available “as of” 12 Noon on November 20, 2002. Some series are estimated as noted below.

*Notes: Series in the leading index that are based on The Conference Board estimates are manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials, manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods, and the personal consumption expenditure deflator for money supply. Series in the coincident index that are based on The Conference Board estimates are personal income less transfer payments and manufacturing and trade sales. Series in the lagging index that are based on The Conference Board estimates are inventories to sales ratio, consumer installment credit to income ratio, change in labor cost per unit of output, and the personal consumption expenditure deflator for commercial and industrial loans outstanding.

THESE DATA ARE FOR ANALYSIS PURPOSES ONLY. NOT FOR REDISTRIBUTION, PUBLISHING, DATABASING, OR PUBLIC POSTING WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION.

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