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Economic Report: U.S. economy softens in April, leading index shows

The numbers: The U.S. leading index fell 0.3% in April largely because of lower home-building permits and a decline in consumer confidence, pointing to slower growth in the economy in the months ahead.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a flat reading.

The LEI is a weighted gauge of 10 indicators designed to show whether the economy is getting better or worse.

Big picture: The U.S. economy is in pretty good shape. Consumers are still spending plenty of money and businesses are hiring and investing.

Yet the Federal Reserve is on course to raise interest rates swiftly in the next year to try cool off inflation, raising the prospect that the economy could slow.

Key details: A measure of current economic condition rose 0.4% in April, the Conference Board said Thursday. The privately run company is the publisher of the report.

The so-called lagging index — a look of sorts in the rearview mirror — also increased by 0.4%.

Looking ahead: “The [leading index] was essentially flat in recent months, which is in line with a moderate growth outlook in the near-term,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the board.

“A range of downside risks—-including inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain disruptions, and pandemic-related shutdowns, particularly in China—-continue to weigh on the outlook.”

The board forecasts the U.S. will grow 2.3% in 2022, down from 5.6% in the prior year.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

fell again in Thursday trades.

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