Leading index forecasts U.S. growth

An index forecasting economic performance in the United States continues to rise, signaling growth in the months ahead.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index rose four-tenths of a percent to 101.4 in April. The index has climbed 2.9 percent over the past six months.

Separate measures of present and past performance also increased in April.

“This latest report suggests the economy will continue to expand and may even pick up steam through the second half of the year,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist with the Conference Board.

Ken Goldstein, another economist with the business research and membership association, agreed. “If consumers continue to spend and businesses pick up the pace of investment, the industrial core of the economy will benefit and GDP growth could move closer towards the 3 percent range.”

Gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, expanded at an annual rate of a tenth of a percent during the first quarter of 2014 after increasing 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

For April, five of 10 components of the Leading Economic Index advanced: building permits, consumer expectations for business conditions, interest rate spread, a leading credit index and new orders for consumer goods and materials. Four components of the index retreated, including average weekly manufacturing hours, new orders for capital goods and a new orders index. An increase in average weekly claims for unemployment benefits also pulled down the index. Stock prices held steady.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current performance, edged up a tenth of a percent to 108.5 in April. The index has increased nine-tenths of a percent over the past six months.

For April, three of four components advanced: nonfarm payrolls, personal income and sales. Industrial production declined.

The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, rose two-tenths of a percent to 123.3 in April. The index has increased 1.1 percent over the past three months.

For April, three of seven components advanced, including commercial and industrial financing and consumer credit. A decrease in the average duration of unemployment buoyed in the index. The cost of services declined. Inventories, labor costs and the average prime rated charged by banks held steady.