A gauge of future U.S. economic activity fell in March for the first time in seven months, reinforcing the view that the American economy has fallen into a rut.

The Conference Board said on Thursday that its Leading Economic Index dropped 0.1% to 94.7 last month. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to rise 0.1 percent in March.

The decline last month was driven by weak readings in surveys of consumer expectations and new orders at factories, as well as a drop in new construction permits.