Originally created 12/02/99

Leading Economic Indicators remain unchanged



NEW YORK -- A key gauge of economic activity was unchanged in October amid signs of weakness in the manufacturing sector.

The Conference Board said today that its Index of Leading Economic Indicators stood at 107.9 in October, the same as in September and in line with analysts' expectations.

The indicator serves as a barometer of economic trends up to six months in the future.

Ken Goldstein, an economist with the New York-based Conference Board, said in a statement accompanying the report that the pause in the index "centers on weak indicators of manufacturing activity."

He noted that new orders for manufacturers declined in October, reflecting still-weak trading conditions in many Asian nations following the financial crises that spread through the region in the summer of 1997.

"The October decline in orders may be the result of lags between foreign recoveries and any subsequent ordering," Goldstein said. "If this is the case, more orders early in 2000 may strengthen the leading economic indicators in the same way that declines flattened the series in September and October."

Since April, the index has risen just 0.7 percent.

The private business-financed research group said that its index of coincident indicators, which tracks current conditions, rose 0.6 percent in October to 126 after falling a revised 0.1 percent in September.

The report said the reading points to continued economic expansion in the October-December quarter. The nation's economy expanded at a 4.8 percent rate in the July-September quarter.

The index of lagging indicators, which measures past performance, declined 0.1 percent to 108.9 in October from a revised 109 in September. It had risen 0.4 percent in September.