Leading index signals continued U.S. growth

Ataman Ozyildirim
Ataman Ozyildirim

An index forecasting economic conditions in the United States continues to signal growth.

The Conference Board reported its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose five-tenths of a percent to 109.8 in June. Separate measures of current and past economic performance also increased.

“The U.S. LEI increased in June, pointing to continuing solid growth in the U.S. economy,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles and growth research at the Conference Board. “The widespread growth in leading indicators — with the exception of housing permits, which declined once again — does not suggest any considerable growth slowdown in the short term.”

The Leading Economic Index increased 2.5 percent over the first half of 2018, slightly slower than the 3.2 percent gain over the second half of 2017. Strengths among the leading indicators remained widespread, however.

Gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, grew at an annual pace of 2 percent during the first quarter of 2018.

For June, seven of the 10 indicators of the Leading Economic Index advanced, including consumer expectations, interest rate spread, leading credit and new orders indexes, new orders for consumer goods anad stock prices. A decrease in average weekly initial claims for unemployment benefits also boosted the index. Building permits declined. Average weekly manufacturing hours and new orders for capital goods held steady.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current conditions, rose three-tenths of a percent to 103.9. The index has increased 1 percent over the past six months.

For June, all four indicators of the index advanced: industrial production, nonfarm payrolls, personal income and sales.

The Lagging Economic Index, a measure of past performance, rose three-tenths of a percent to 105.4. The index has increased 1.2 percent over the past three months.

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