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Geoffrey H. Moore passes away

Geoffrey H. Moore, who wanted to run a chicken farm but instead became a world-renowned analyst of business cycles, died Thursday at his home in Bloomfield, Conn. He was 86 years old.

Dr. Moore rose to prominence during a 30-year career at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private body in Cambridge, Mass., that, among other things, is the quasi-official arbiter of when recessions begin and end. He also became a prominent figure in academe and in Washington, where he served as commissioner of labor statistics during the Nixon administration.

One of his Statistics I students at New York University in 1946 was Alan Greenspan, now chairman of the Federal Reserve, who yesterday called his former teacher ''a major force in economic statistics and business-cycle research for more than a half-century.'' Mr. Greenspan told Congress in 1994 that he closely followed all of Dr. Moore's work, which focused mainly on economic fluctuations and ways of measuring them.

Dr. Moore continued this work until his death, having founded at age 82 in New York the Economic Cycle Research Institute, whose innovative gauge for predicting inflation has climbed in recent months.

Dr. Moore, a protege of Wesley Clair Mitchell and Arthur F. Burns, the founders of formal business cycle analysis, added much pioneering work of his own. For example, after the profession had responded to a Depression-era request by the Roosevelt administration to generate statistics that could point to revival, Dr. Moore enlarged on this work in 1950 to include economic downturns as well as recoveries.

''In a sense, he was the father of the leading indicators as we know them today,'' said Anirvan Banerji, co-director of research with Dr. Moore at the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

Later he refined so-called diffusion indexes so that each of their disparate forecasting components could be seen in their own cyclical contexts, preventing distortions that would otherwise arise from comparing unlike factors.

Ultimately, the Commerce Department adopted as its own the series of leading, coincident and lagging economic indicators that Dr. Moore developed with Julius Shiskin, his predecessor as head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These indicators tend to warn of turning points in the economy by moving ahead of it or to confirm turns by moving at the same time or even lagging behind economic developments.

Although this series, now privatized, became less reliable in the 1990's, Dr. Moore was one of the few to correctly predict the brief 1990-1991 recession, which he said was only set off, not caused, by the Persian Gulf war.

For the last 20 years or more, Dr. Moore insisted on distinguishing between inflation cycles and economic cycles, implying that weak growth did not rule out rapid inflation, as occurred in the 1970's, and that inflation could decline in the face of strong growth, as occurred, to the surprise of many, in the 1990's.

Dr. Moore, whose father was in the real estate business, grew up in rural Pequannock, N.J., went to high school in Montclair, N.J., and graduated from the College of Agriculture at Rutgers University intent on a career in poultry after having worked after school and summers for a chicken farmer.

A professor induced him to return to graduate school, however, and he wound up studying under Dr. Burns, who in 1939 engaged the young agricultural economist as a research associate at the National Bureau.

Dr. Moore taught at N.Y.U. as well as Rutgers, Columbia University and the Colorado School of Mines and was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He held a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard.

In the early 1970's he left Washington after accusations that he was part of the Nixon administration's efforts to politicize the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accusations that a House committee found largely unfounded. In 1979, at Rutgers, Dr. Moore set up the Center for International Business Cycle Research, which was moved to Columbia in 1983 for greater computer capacity.

A financial dispute with Columbia after Dr. Moore agreed to turn over rights to his work led him and his associates to leave in 1996 to found the Economic Cycle Research Institute on Lexington Avenue. This week, by apparent coincidence, Columbia told him that he could expect to have the rights returned to him.

In his later years, Dr. Moore spent much of his time developing a forecasting index for inflation and extending his work on business cycles and forecasting indexes to dozens of other countries.

He is survived by his wife, the former Melita Riley; two sons, Stephen, of Tolland, Conn., and Peter, of Fort Thomas, Ky.; two daughters, Kathleen Holness, of Somerset, N.J., and Pamela Pelligrino, of Center Harbor, N.H.; and a stepson, Bryant Riley of Mount Sterling, Ohio. Dr. Moore's first wife and the mother of his children, Ella C. Goldschmid, died in 1975.