Signs Point To Slow-Down In U.S. Economic Growth

U.S. economic growth may have reached a peak, as The Conference Board predicts it could slow to two percent by the end of 2019. The Conference Board reports that its Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. declined 0.1 percent in December to 111.7. December’s result follows a 0.2 percent increase in November and a 0.3 percent decline in October.

December’s result was impacted by the U.S. federal government shutdown, The Conference Board notes. Due to the shutdown, data for manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials for November and December and building permits were not published for December. The Conference Board forecast these series in order to publish a preliminary Leading Economic Index.

“The US LEI declined slightly in December and the recent moderation in the LEI suggests that the U.S. economic growth rate may slow down this year,” says Ataman Ozyildirim, director of economic research at The Conference Board. “While the effects of the government shutdown are not yet reflected here, the LEI suggests that the economy could decelerate towards two percent growth by the end of 2019.”

The Conference Board’s Coincident Economic Index (CEI), a measure of current economic activity, increased in December, rising 0.2 percent to 105.1, following a 0.2 percent increase in November and a 0.2 percent increase in October. Its Lagging Economic Index, an indicator representing changes that come only after the economy has begun to follow a particular trend, ticked up 0.5 percent in December to 106.7, after an increase of 0.5 percent in November and a 0.6 percent increase in October.

The Conference Board’s indexes are composites of leading, coincident and lagging economic indicators designed to highlight peaks and troughs in the business cycle that could be obscured by volatility within individual components. The LEI is comprised of 10 indicators. These include average weekly hours, manufacturing; average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance; manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials; the Institute of Supply Management Index of New Orders; manufacturers' new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders; building permits, new private housing units; stock prices, 500 common stocks; the Leading Credit Index; the interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds; and average consumer expectations for business conditions.

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