Leading index forecasts moderate growth in first half of 2017

An index forecasting economic performance in  the United States remains unchanged, but continues to signal moderate growth through the first half of the new year.

The Conference Board reported that its Leading Economic Index held steady at 124.6 in November, while separate measures of current and past conditions both increased.

“The underlying trends in the LEI suggest that the economy will continue expanding into the first half of 2017, but it’s unlikely to considerably accelerate,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist with the Conference Board, a business research and membership association.

The Leading Economic Index has increased 1 percent over the past six months, after slipping two-tenths of a percent over the previous six-month span. Gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter and 1.4 percent in the second quarter.

For November, seven of 10 indicators of the leading index advanced, including consumer expectations, the interest rate spread, a leading credit index, new orders for capital and consumer goods and stock prices. A decrease in unemployment claims also bolstered the index. Three indicators retreated: building permits, a new orders index and weekly manufacturing hours.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current conditions, edged up a tenth of a percent to 114.6 in November. The index has increased 1.1 percent over the past six months.

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

The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, rose three-tenths of a percent to 123.2 in November. The index has increased seven-tenths of a percent over the past three months.

For November, four of seven indicators of the index advanced, including consumer credit, commercial and industrial financing and inventories. A decrease in the average duration of unemployment also buoyed the index. The cost of labor and services declined. The average prime rate charged by banks held steady.