The index of U.S. leading economic indicators (LEI) unexpectedly declined in July, depressed by a slump in building permits that mainly reflected a proposed change in a New York tax credit.
The Conference Board’s gauge, a measure of the outlook for the next three to six months, decreased 0.2 percent after rising 0.6 percent in June, the New York-based group said Thursday. The median forecast of 40 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.2 percent advance.
The decrease was narrowly based with only two—building permits and stock prices—of the measure’s 10 components retreating. That means growth in the last half of 2015 will depend even more on American consumers as their spending on items from cars to homes accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy.
“Despite a sharp drop in housing permits, the U.S. LEI is still pointing to moderate economic growth through the remainder of the year,” Ataman Ozyildirim, director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at the Conference Board, said in a statement.
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a 0.2 percent decline to a gain of 0.4 percent.
Seven of the 10 components in the Conference Board’s measure increased in July, paced by the spread between short- and long-term interest rates, a drop in jobless claims, and easing credit conditions.
The Conference Board’s index of coincident indicators, a gauge of current economic activity, increased 0.2 percent in July for a second month. The gauge tracks payrolls, incomes, sales, and production—the measures used by the National Bureau of Economic Research to determine the beginning and end of U.S. recessions.
“Current conditions, measured by the coincident economic index, have been rising moderately but steadily, driven by rising employment and income, and even industrial production has improved in recent months,” Ozyildirim said.
The gauge of lagging indicators increased 0.3 percent in July after a 0.7 percent gain the month before.
The U.S. economy is projected to expand 2.3 percent in 2015, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. That’s within the range forecast by Federal Reserve policy makers as they consider when to raise their benchmark interest rate for the first time since 2006.
–With assistance from Kristy Scheuble in Washington.