Leading indicators in 5th straight drop

The Conference Board's index down streak is the longest since 2001.

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By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- An indicator of the economy's future performance fell for the fifth straight month in February, the first time that has happened since 2001, according to a report released Thursday.

The index of leading U.S. economic indicators issued by The Conference Board, a business research group, fell 0.3% to 135 last month, slightly less than the revised 0.4% decline logged in January. The decline was in line with economists' expectations, according to a consensus compiled by Briefing.com.

The decline is "certainly reflective of a very slow economy," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board. "But we still have strong fundamentals."

Jobless claims, building permits and vendor performance were the components that impacted the index negatively. The index was supported by positive contributions from the money supply and interest rate spread measures.

The index has not declined for five consecutive months since 2001, when it fell from 114.3 in October of 2000 to 112 in April 2001. The National Bureau of Economic Research said the nation's economy went into recession from March through November 2001.

Goldstein said the probability of a recession is high but added that the data does not necessarily prove that we are currently in one. He said the index showed weakness in housing and in the financial sector, which has been the case since last year, but that certain sectors and regions had shown signs of strength.

"There is not a sense that the rest of the economy is going to fold into the same decline," Goldstein said. "That might happen, but data don't show that."

The index of leading indicators, which compiles data on stock prices, jobless claims, building permits and other indicators, is designed to signal turning points in the business cycle. To top of page

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