Economic bellwether slips again

The US index of leading indicators, which predicts the course of the economy, fell sharply in June for the second consecutive month, the Commerce Department reports. The index declined 1.3 percent last month, after a 1.5 percent drop in May. The two declines were the steepest since the spring recession of 1980 and lent fresh support to predictions by Reagan administration economists that the economy was heading into a rather sluggish period.

The government attributed much of the decline in June to a sharp drop in building permits for housing, another indication the home-building industry, once a stalwart of the economy, was still struggling through its two-year-old slump. Stable petroleum prices and the tight monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board also contributed to the overall decline, the government said.

Government and private forecasters tend to dismiss the significance of movements in the index unless a pattern has been established over a three-month period. They noted, for example, that the index declined 0.1 percent in December, January, and February but that the US economy resisted a collapse int o renewed recession.

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