Economists and analysts are picking apart every statistical report in a vain effort to predict the trough of the current blowout of a recession. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Report was gobbled up by the fearless prognosticators, many of whom divined the beginning of the end of the downturn from this text: “Reports from the Federal Reserve Banks indicate that overall economic activity contracted further or remained weak. However, five of the twelve Districts note a moderation in the pace of decline, and several saw signs that that activity in some sectors was stabilizing at a low level.”

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index declined again in March. It hasn’t risen in nine months. But the rate of decline seems to be easing: it fell 0.4 percent last month, 0.6 percent in February, and 0.9 percent in January. Unhappily, the slippage in the Lagging Economic Index accelerated in the same period—down 0.4 percent in March, 0.3 percent in February, and 0.2 percent in January. From this rather muddy evidence the Conference Board’s economist, Ken Goldstein, predicts that “the recession may continue through the summer, but the intensity will ease.”

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