Rising leading index signals growth ahead in U.S.

Ataman Ozyildirim

An index forecasting economic conditions in the United States continues to climb higher, signaling growth in the months ahead.

The Conference Board reported its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose seven-tenths of a percent to 115.1 in June. 

A separate measure of current economic conditions also increased, while a measure of past performance remained unchanged.

“June’s gain in the U.S. LEI was broad-based and, despite negative contributions from housing permits and average workweek, suggests that strong economic growth will continue in the near term,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the Conference Board.

The Conference Board forecasts year-over-year growth in gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country, of 6.6 percent in 2021 an 3.8 percent in 2022.

The Leading Economic Index increased 5 percent during the first half of 2021, less than the 6.6 percent gain in the second half of 2020. Strength among the leading indicators remained widespread, however.

For June, eight of 10 indicators of the index advanced, including consumer expectations, interest rate spread, leading credit and new order indexes, new orders for consumer and capital goods and stock prices. A decrease in average weekly initial claims for unemployment benefits also bolstered the index.  Average weekly manufacturing hours and building permits retreated.

The Coincident Economic Index rose four-tenths of a percent to 105.5. The index increased 2.4 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 held steady at 105.8. The index increased 3.6 percent over the past three months.

For June, two of seven indicators advanced: consumer debt and cost of services. Commercial and industrial financing and labor costs retreated. An increase in the average duration of unemployment also pulled down the index. The average prime rate charged by banks and inventories held steady.