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Conference Board

reported that the composite index of leading economic indicators fell 0.2% in November, following a 0.3% drop in October, and a 0.1% rise in September.

"The indicators are pointing to significantly slower growth in the first half of 2001," Ken Goldstein, a Conference Board economist, said in a statement. "The economy continues to cool off, run up against limits to growth and suffer from financial market distortions."

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Goldstein also said "more recently, there has been added a measure of caution on the part of both businesses and consumers. Still, the index is only 0.4% lower than it was one year ago. That is not a mark of any major contraction in business conditions. So the outlook remains one of slower growth, not slowed growth."

The Conference Board also reported that the coincident index rose 0.1% in November, after a 0.1% decline in October and a 0.3% rise in September. Employment and income levels have been holding up, though the leading indicator data are pointing to shorter workweeks and an increase in layoffs. The lagging index rose 0.3% in November, the same as in October, after a 0.1% rise in September.

The indices are used for assessing current and future economic trends, particularly cyclical expansions and recessions. Indicators in the leading index change direction before a cyclical turning point in the economy. Coincident indicators change direction at the same time as the general economy, and lagging indicators change direction after a change in the economy.