Leading U.S. Economic Index Falls for First Time Since September

The index of U.S. economic indicators decreased in December for the first time in three months, weighed by slowing factory orders and fewer building permits. 

The Conference Board’s measure of the economic outlook for the next three to six months fell 0.2 percent in December after rising 0.5 percent the month before, the New York-based research group said Friday. That matched the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Five of the 10 indicators of the composite gauge decreased. Those also included an increase in jobless claims, the drop in stock prices and waning consumer confidence about the economic outlook.

“The index continues to suggest moderate growth in the near-term despite the economy losing some momentum at the end of 2015,” Ataman Ozyildirim, director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “It’s too early to interpret this as a substantial rise in the risk of recession.”

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a 0.4 percent drop to 0.3 percent advance. The November reading was revised up from a prior estimate that showed a 0.4 percent increase.

Coincident Index

The Conference Board’s coincident economic index, a measure of current economic activity, increased 0.1 percent in December for a second month. The gauge is determined by growth in industrial production, sales, payrolls and incomes -- the measures used by the National Bureau of Economic Research to determine the beginning and end of U.S. recessions.

The index is showing resilience compared to the volatility that’s rocked financial markets since the start of the year, indicating that troubles in equities may have a more tenuous link to actual developments in the economy.

The gauge of lagging indicators rose 0.2 percent in December after a 0.3 percent gain the month before.

Friday’s release also included annual benchmark revisions to the three indexes, aligning them with updates in the underlying source data.

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