Australian Leading Index Fell for First in Four Months, Says Conference Board

Australia’s [B]Conference Board’s Leading Index[/B] fell for the first in four months in May, dropping -0.1%. April’s reading was also revised downward to 0.3% from the originally reported 0.7% result. The metric tracks a number of leading indicators including rural goods exports, building approvals and stock prices to gauge the short- to medium-term trajectory of the overall economy. Perhaps the most important takeaway from the report is that the sales-to-inventory ratio, the largest component of the index, fell for the sixth consecutive month to reveal companies continue to suffer from lackluster demand. This underscores an increasing disparity between market sentiment and the underlying fundamentals of the economy. Buoyant stock markets and money supply growth had catalyzed the most recent run-up in the index, a dynamic that may be repeated in the forthcoming release considering Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 benchmark equity index added 3.6% in June. However, the equity rally seems hardly sustainable if sales growth remains lifeless, robbing firms of the kind of earnings that will not disappear once cost-cutting invariably reaches its natural limits.