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Released: Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index™ (LEI) for the Euro Area decreased 0.3 percent in February to 92.9 (2004 = 100), following a 0.9 percent increase in January and a 1.7 percent drop in December. Falling stock prices, as well as declines by the Economic Sentiment Index and The Purchasing Managers' Index (manufacturing), more than offset the widening interest rate spread.

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Said Jean-Claude Manini, The Conference Board Senior Economist for Europe: "As the plunge of new orders shows no signs of abating, the short-term should remain dominated by the run-off on inventories. The contraction of demand, and the speed with which this is occurring, is challenging the efforts made by firms to cut production and adjust their inventories. The first quarter of 2009 is on its way to becoming as weak as the fourth quarter. Like The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. — which suggests that the U.S. recession will continue through the summer — the continued widespread declines in the LEI for the Euro Area and the worsening of job market conditions don't bode well for a turnaround, even a modest one, in the next few months. While recovery before 2010 can't be ruled out, the odds are growing slimmer."

After falling for the fifth time in the last six months in February, The Conference Board LEI for the Euro Area remains on a general downtrend since June 2007, falling by more than 14.0 percent since then. A previous decline of this magnitude preceded the region's 1992-93 recession. Meanwhile, The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index™ (CEI) for the Euro Area, a measure of current economic activity, decreased by 0.1 percent in February to 103.6 (2004 = 100), according to preliminary estimates*, after falling 0.2 percent in January and 0.5 percent in December. The Conference Board CEI for the Euro Area has been trending downward since February 2008.

The Conference Board LEI for the Euro Area aggregates eight economic indicators that measure activity in the Euro Area as a whole (rather than indicators of individual member countries), each of which has proven accurate on its own. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out so-called "noise" to show underlying trends more clearly.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index™ for the Euro Area was launched in January 2009. Plotted back to 1987, this index has successfully signaled turning points in the business cycle of the bloc of countries that now constitute the Euro Area, defined by the common currency zone.

The Conference Board currently produces leading economic indexes for nine other individual countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, Korea and Mexico.

Click here for further background information on The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the Euro Area.

The eight components of The Conference Board Leading Economic Index™ (LEI) for the Euro Area include:

Economic Sentiment Index (source: European Commission DG-ECFIN)
Index of Residential Building Permits Granted (source: Eurostat)
Index of Capital Goods New Orders (source: Eurostat)
Dow Jones EURO STOXX® Index (source: STOXX Limited)
Money Supply (M2) (source: European Central Bank)
Interest Rate Spread (source: ECB)
Eurozone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (source: Markit Economics)
Eurozone Service Sector Future Business Activity Expectations Index (source: Markit Economics)

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* Series in The Conference Board LEI for the Euro Area that are based on The Conference Board estimates are real money supply, residential building permits and new orders of capital goods. All series in The Conference Board CEI for the Euro Area are based on The Conference Board estimates (employment, industrial production, retail trade and manufacturing turnover).


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