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The numbers: The leading economic index declined 0.5% in November and fell for the 20th month in a row, and continued to signal a recession ahead.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.5% drop in the leading index, a gauge of 10 indicators designed to show whether the economy is getting better or worse.

The last time the index fell so many times in a row was during the Great Recession from the end of 2007 through 2009.

Key details: Nine of the 10 indicators in the survey were flat or negative in November. The only one that was positive was stocks in light a recent rally.

Big picture: The economy has defied widespread predictions of a recession because of a strong labor market and steady consumer spending. The usual patterns of economic activity has also been less predictable since the pandemic.

While some economists think a mild recession is likely, others believe the U.S. could escape a downturn, especially if the Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates. The central bank had jacked up borrowing costs to tame inflation.

Looking ahead: “Despite the economy’s ongoing resilience … the Conference Board forecasts a short and shallow recession in the first half of 2024,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, senior manager of business cycle indicators at the Board.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500
rose in Thursday trading.

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