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Economy in Brief


by Bob Brusca Conference Board Index Rises in May; April Revised Higher May 29, 2007

The Conference Board reading is strong with the present situation index up and displaying the sort of upward trend that should dispel any worries about an impending economic slowing.

Expectations readings are well off their top but actually show a small positive trend. The overall index itself is in a steady uptrend now. This is more impressive against the background of surging prices for gasoline.

The table below chronicles the readings for confidence and the present situation by region. Regionally we see that weakness is clustered in the Eastern regions. As we move down the table and toward the West there are fewer red percentage changes signaling declines over some horizon.

In the East conditions are mostly lagging below their six-month average values while in the West they mostly reside above those levels. However, regional confidence slipped in May in only three regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic states and South Atlantic states. Over three months confidence is lower in six of nine regions. Over six months, confidence is lower in four of nine regions. Over a period of one year, confidence lags in three of nine regions. Despite the greater breadth of weakness in consumer confidence in recent months, in May conditions improved in most regions. In May conditions improved across most regions for the present situation as well as for consumer confidence overall.

The current readings are very strong. If we place regional readings in the percentile of their range’ since October 2003, we find seven of nine regions have a current reading that is at or above the 80th percentile of its respective range. The exceptions are New England and the South Atlantic. Expectations are at 80% of range mostly out West: in the Mountain states, Pacific states (100th percentile!) and West South Central. The East South Central is also an 80th percentile or better reading. Mid-Atlantic confidence is in the 72 percentile and the West North Central is in the 56th percentile but New England, East North Central and the South Atlantic are weak. On balance, the Conference Board report is upbeat and is much better than expected.

Regional Confidence Measures and Current Conditions
Regions: Levels Of Index Numbers Avg Level 1-Mo Pct 3-Mo Pct 6-Mo Pct Yr/Yr Pct
  May-07 Apr-07 Mar-07 Feb-07 Nov-06 Oct-06 6-mo Mo Rate At AR At AR At AR
New England 78.5 83.7 91.6 110 87.5 91.2 90.3 -6.2% -114.5% -37.1% -6.4%
Current Cond. 107.7 102 136.3 133 102.9 119.4 116.4 5.6% -76.1% -23.2% -6.9%
MidAtlantic 91.2 95 98.1 100 88.9 89 94.6 -4.0% -35.2% -1.5% 8.6%
Current Cond. 114.9 118.4 119.9 117.8 105.2 105.7 115.2 -3.0% -9.8% 1.6% 4.3%
East North Central 68.8 59.1 66 83.7 75.6 75.9 70.6 16.4% -71.2% 9.1% -8.8%
Current Cond. 86.7 62.8 75.6 85.3 75.8 85.8 77.2 38.1% 6.6% 57.7% 1.9%
West North Central 104.5 97.2 115.6 107.6 103.6 99.5 105.7 7.5% -11.5% -15.0% 0.3%
Current Cond. 139.9 132.3 150.8 149.5 148.5 123.5 144.2 5.7% -25.7% 9.6% 2.6%
South Atlantic 115.3 118.6 117.7 131.1 119.3 119.1 120.4 -2.8% -48.2% -7.2% -1.5%
Current Cond. 143.9 143.7 149.2 155.9 147.3 146.1 148.0 0.1% -30.8% -8.3% -5.3%
East South Central 123.2 116.5 121 108.2 102.3 114.4 114.2 5.8% 55.5% 27.7% 14.6%
Current Cond. 132.1 138.1 147.2 130.5 121.1 128 133.8 -4.3% 4.9% 20.4% -4.0%
West South Central 134.3 123.7 129.3 129.7 116.9 131.1 126.8 8.6% 14.2% 0.4% 11.0%
Current Cond. 167.2 151.6 158.3 165.9 140.8 162 156.8 10.3% 3.1% 9.8% 12.4%
Mountain 143.2 139.1 143.5 148.8 119.8 130.1 138.9 2.9% -15.1% 26.4% 11.7%
Current Cond. 180.1 175.9 181.2 177.7 163.6 165.3 175.7 2.4% 5.4% 23.4% 14.0%
Pacific 130.2 123.2 122.5 124.2 122 127 124.4 5.7% 19.3% 8.8% 13.7%
Current Cond. 168.7 167.8 149.9 154.3 160.1 164.3 160.2 0.5% 37.3% 7.0% 9.0%
Note -- all percentage changes are at annualized rates, except one-month
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