CB LEI: 10th Consecutive Decline in December, Recession Signal Continues

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.

The latest Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for December was down 1% from the November final figure of 111.6, marking the 10th consecutive MoM decline.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)for theU.S. decreased by 1.0 percent in December 2022 to 110.5 (2016=100), following a decline of 1.1 percent in November. The LEI is now down 4.2 percent over the six-month period between June and December 2022—a much steeper rate of decline than its 1.9 percent contraction over the previous six-month period (December 2021–June 2022).

“The US LEI fell sharply again in December—continuing to signal recession for the US economy in the near term,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director, Economics, at The Conference Board. “There was widespread weakness among leading indicators in December, indicating deteriorating conditions for labor markets, manufacturing, housing construction, and financial markets in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the coincident economic index (CEI) has not weakened in the same fashion as the LEI because labor market related indicators (employment and personal income) remain robust. Nonetheless, industrial production— also a component of the CEI—fell for the third straight month. Overall economic activity is likely to turn negative in the coming quarters before picking up again in the final quarter of 2023.” More

Here is a log-scale chart of the LEI series with documented recessions as identified by the NBER. The use of a log scale gives us a better sense of the relative sizes of peaks and troughs than a more conventional linear scale.

Conference Board's LEI

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 and the number of months between the previous peak and official recessions.