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First Cut: Leading Economic Index flat in August as slow new orders and lower stocks balance out strong permits and credit

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index for August was flat after up 0.4% in in July (previously up 0.5%). For a second month in a row, a surge in building permits led the positive contributions, followed by the Conference Board’s Leading Credit Index and an improvement in consumer expectations for business conditions.

However, the five positive contribution plus one neutral expectation was balanced out by four negative contributions led by the ISM new orders index, lower stock prices, and an uptick in jobless claims.

After some substantial and steady gains in 2017 and 2018, 2019 is shaping up to be a year in which a month or two of modest increase is being offset by signals of at best no growth or a slight dip.

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