Leading Economic Index holds steady

Ataman Ozyildirim

A monthly index forecasting economic conditions remains unchanged, signaling slow growth likely will continue in the United States.

The Conference Board reported its Leading Economic Indicator (LEI) held steady at 112.1 in August. A separate measure of current economic performance increased. A measure of past performance decreased. The latest results suggest economic growth will continue, but at a moderate pace.

“The recent trends in the LEI are consistent with a slow, but still expanding, economy, which has been primarily driven by strong consumer spending and robust job growth,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the Conference Board.

The LEI has increased a half of a percent over the past six months, about the same pace as the previous six-month span. Strengths among leading indicators remain more widespread than weaknesses.

Gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, grew at an annual rate of 2 percent in the second quarter after increasing 3.1 percent in the first quarter.

For August, five of 10 indicators of the LEI advanced, including average weekly manufacturing hours, building permits, consumer expectations, a leading credit index and new orders for consumer goods The interest rate spread retreated, as did a  new orders index and stock prices. An increase in initial claims for unemployment insurance also affected the LEI. New orders for capital goods held steady.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current performance, rose three-tenths of a percent to 106.4. The index has increased seven-tenths of a percent over the past six months.

For August, all four components of the index advanced: income, industrial production, payrolls and sales.

The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, decreased three-tenths of a percent to 108.2. The index has increased eight-tenths of a percent over the past three months.

For August, three of seven components of the index advanced: commercial and industrial financing, the cost of services and personal credit. The average prime rate charged by banks, the cost of labor and inventories retreated. An increase in the average duration of unemployment also affected the index.