Leading index signals looming U.S. recession

Ataman Ozyildirim

An index forecasting economic conditions in the United States continues to decline, signaling a recession that could start next year.

The Conference Board reported its Leading Economic Index fell 1 percent to 113.5 in November. The index has dropped in each of the last nine months and 3.7 percent over the past six months.

Separate measures of current and past conditions increased in November.

Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economics at the Conference Board, said the latest reading reflects headwinds to economic growth.

“The Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening cycle is curtailing aspects of economic activity, especially housing,” Ozyildirim said. “As a result, we project the U.S. recession is likely to start around the beginning of 2023 and last through mid-year.” 

For November, six of 10 components of the Leading Economic Index retreated, including average weekly manufacturing hours, building permits, consumer expectations and leading credit and new orders indexes. An increase in weekly initial claims for unemployment benefits also pulled down the index. The interest rate spread, new orders for capital and consumer goods and stock prices advanced.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current conditions, edged up a tenth of a percent to 109.4. The index rose 1.2 percent over the past six months.

For November, three of four indicators increased: nonfarm payrolls, personal income and sales. Industrial production declined.

The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, rose two-tenths of a percent to 116.4. The index rose nine-tenths of a point over the past three months.

For November, three of seven components advanced: the average prime rate charged by banks, commercial and industrial financing and consumer credit. The change in labor costs and services pulled down the index, as did an increase in the duration of unemployment. Inventories remained unchanged.