Leading Economic Index signals growth ahead

An index forecasting economic conditions in the United States continues to increase, signaling more growth even in the aftermath of damaging hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Caribbean.

The Conference Board reported its Leading Economic Index rose four-tenths of a percent to 128.8 in August.

“The August gain is consistent with continuing growth in the U.S. economy for the second half of the year, which may even see a moderate pick up,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist with the Conference Board, a business research and membership association.

“While the economic impact of the hurricanes is not fully reflected in the leading indicators yet, the underlying trends suggest that the current solid pace of growth should continue in the near term,” Ozyildirim said.

The Leading Economic Index increased 2.3 percent over the past six months, up from the 2 percent gain over the six-month span before that. Strengths among the leading indicators have become more widespread.

Gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, grew at annual rate of 3 percent in the second quarter after increasing at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the first quarter.

For August, seven of the 10 indicators of the Leading Economic Index advanced, including building permits, consumer expectations for business conditions, interest rate spread, leading credit and new orders indexes, new orders for consumer goods and materials and manufacturing hours. An increase in claims for unemployment insurance pulled down the index. New orders for nondefense capital goods and stock prices held steady.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current performance, remained unchanged in August at 115.8. The index has increased 1 percent over the past six months.

For August, three of four indicators of the index advanced: nonfarm payrolls, personal income and sales. Industrial production retreated.

The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, rose three-tenths of a percent to 125.2. The index has gained seven-tenths of a percent over the past three months.

For August, four of seven components of the index advanced, including commercial and industrial financing, consumer credit and inventories. A decrease in the average duration of unemployment also bolstered the index. The cost of labor decreased. The cost of services and average prime rate charged by banks remained unchanged.