Leading index signals growth ahead in U.S.

A monthly index forecasting economic conditions in the United States continues to signal growth in the months ahead.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index rose three-tenths of a percent to 126.9 in April. Separate measures of current and past economic performance also increased.

“The recent trend in the U.S. LEI, led by the positive outlook of consumers and financial markets, continues to point to a growing economy, perhaps even a cyclical pickup,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist with the Conference Board, a business research and membership association.

The Leading Economic Index has increased 2.4 percent over the past six months, well above the seven-tenths of a percent gain over the six months before that. Strength among the leading indicators has remained widespread.

Gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, rose at an annual rate of seven-tenths of a percent in the first quarter after rising 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

For April, eight of 10 components of the Leading Economic Index advanced, including average weekly manufacturing hours, consumer expectations for business conditions, interest rate spread, leading credit and new orders indexes, new orders for both consumer and capital goods. A decrease in average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance also bolstered the index. Building permits and stock prices retreated.

The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of current conditions, rose three-tenths of a percent to 115.2. The index has increased 1.1 percent over the past six months.

For April, all four components 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 124.1. The index has increased
six-tenths of a percent over the past three months.

For April, five of seven components of the index advanced, including the average prime rate charged by banks, commercial and industrial financing, consumer credit and inventories. A decrease in the average duration of unemployment also pulled up the index. The cost of labor and services retreated.