CB Leading Economic Index: Recession Signal Resumes as Index Declines Further
The latest Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) fell for a 19th consecutive month in October as the LEI resumed signaling a recession in the near term. The index dropped 0.8% from last month to 103.9, the index's lowest reading since May 2020.
“The US LEI trajectory remained negative, and its six- and twelve-month growth rates also held in negative territory in October,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, Senior Manager, Business Cycle Indicators, at The Conference Board. “Among the leading indicators, deteriorating consumers’ expectations for business conditions, lower ISM® Index of New Orders, falling equities, and tighter credit conditions drove the index’s most recent decline. After a pause in September, the LEI resumed signaling recession in the near term. The Conference Board expects elevated inflation, high interest rates, and contracting consumer spending—due to depleting pandemic saving and mandatory student loan repayments—to tip the US economy into a very short recession. We forecast that real GDP will expand by just 0.8 percent in 2024.” More
Background on the Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)
The LEI is a composite index of several indicators. It is a predictive variable that anticipates, or leads, turning points in the business cycle and anticipates where the economy is heading. Since the LEI is comprised of multiple components, it is meant to provide a clearer picture as it is able to smooth out volatility associated with individual components. The ten components of Conference Board LEI include: Average weekly hours in manufacturing; Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance; Manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials; ISM® Index of New Orders; Manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders; Building permits for new private housing units; S&P 500® Index of Stock Prices; Leading Credit Index™; Interest rate spread (10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds rate); Average consumer expectations for business conditions.
Here is a chart of the LEI series with documented recessions as identified by the NBER. Note the peaks of the index preceding each of the recessions and the troughs occurring near the end of each recession.
In October, most components contributed negatively to the LEI or were flat. Positive contributions were made by manufacturer's new orders for consumer goods and materials and building permits.
Leading Economic Index and Recession Risk
For a better understanding of the relationship between the LEI and recessions, the next chart shows the percentage off the previous peak for the index. We are currently 11.8% off the 2021 peak. The chart also calls out the number of months between the previous peak and official recessions. On average, there is usually 10.6 months between a peak and a recession. We are currently 22 months off from the 2021 peak.