U.S. Economic Indicator Index Falls for Fourth Consecutive Month

New York–A weaker housing market and lower stock prices drove the index of leading U.S. economic indicators down by 0.1 percent last month–its fourth monthly drop in a row, the Conference Board said Thursday.The leading index has declined 2 percent from July 2007 to last month, its biggest six-month free-fall since 2001, according to MarketWatch.However, the coincident economic indicator index–which measures the current state of the economy–increased by 0.1 percent in January, showing that the economy is not yet in a recession, the New York-based Conference Board’s labor economist said. The leading index change indicates weak growth in the future. Half of the 10 factors that comprise the leading indicators–stocks, building permits, interest-rate spread, and new manufacturing orders and nondefense capital goods–declined last month.Yet average weekly jobless claims, vendor performance and real money supply rose last month. Manufacturers’ new consumer goods orders remained flat.The Labor Department said separately on Thursday that initial state unemployment benefit filings were lower at the end of the month. First-time jobless claims fell by 9,000 in the week ended Feb. 16, bringing first-time claims to their lowest level in a month.