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The U.S. Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) dropped 1.2% in March to 108.4, after decreasing 0.5% in February (downward revision). The index has fallen 4.5% over the last six months and has been in decline for a full year.

“The U.S. LEI fell to its lowest level since November of 2020, consistent with worsening economic conditions ahead,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, Senior Manager of Business Cycle Indicators at The Conference Board. “The weaknesses among the index’s components were widespread in March and have been so over the past six months, which pushed the growth rate of the LEI deeper into negative territory.” Within those six months, stock prices and manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials were the only components that contributed positively to the index.

The U.S. Coincident Economic Index edged up 0.2% to 110.2 in March and has increased 0.8% over the past six months. Meanwhile, the Lagging Economic Index inched down 0.2% to 118.3 in March but has increased 1.1% in the last six months.

“The Conference Board forecasts that economic weakness will intensify and spread more widely throughout the U.S. economy over the coming months,” Zabinska-La Monica added, “leading to a recession starting in mid-2023.”