Leading index forecasts growth, but at a slowing pace

A monthly forecast of future economic activity in the United States continues to signal growth, albeit at a slowing pace.

The Conference Board reported that its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose three-tenths of a percent to 115.3 in June. Measures of current and past economic performance also increased in June.

The LEI rose eight-tenths of a percent in May and has gained 2.7 percent over the past six months, lower than the 3.2 percent increase in the previous six-month period.

Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist with the Conference Board, said that while the LEI continues to advance, strengths and weaknesses among the indicators used to calculate the index have balanced in recent months.

Ken Goldstein, another economist with the Conference Board, said the economy has faced “headwinds” in supply shortages in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan as well as tornado and flood damage in the United States. If the U.S. debt ceiling issue isn’t resolved, a financial crises could ensue, Goldstein said.

Five of the 10 indicators of the LEI advanced in June, including building permits, the interest rate spread on 10-year Treasury bonds, money supply, new orders for manufactured consumer goods and vendor performance. Average weekly manufacturing hours, consumer expectations, new orders for capital goods and stock prices declined. Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance held steady.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current conditions, edged up a tenth of a percent to 102.9 in June. The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, rose three-tenths of a percent to 109.5.