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Economy in Brief

U.S. Leading Indicators Waffle
by Tom Moeller  July 19, 2012

It's been hard to find a solid indication of the economy's future, and one of the better series has been waffling. The Leading Economic Indicator index from the Conference Board fell 0.3% last month following a 0.4% May rise, initially reported as 0.3%. It was the second decline in three months. A 0.1% dip had been expected. Component declines in the series were led by a lower ISM orders index, diminished consumer expectations for business/economic conditions, fewer building permits and lower stock prices. A greatly-diminished 40% of the component series rose last month, the least since September. A steeper interest rate yield curve provided the largest positive influence.

The index of coincident indicators increased 0.2% for a second month as each of the four component series rose, most notably manufacturing and trade sales.The index of lagging indicators rose 0.2% (3.6% y/y).

Another leading economic series is the ratio of coincident-to-lagging indicators. It measures how the economy is performing versus its excesses. The figure was steady m/m and sharply below its high of January last year.

The Conference Board figures are available in Haver's BCI database; the components are available there, and most are also in USECON. The forecast figure for the Consensus are in the AS1REPNA database. Visit the Conference Board's site for coverage of leading indicator series from around the world.

The Fed's latest Beige Book covering regional economic conditions is available here.

Business Cycle Indicators (%) Jun May Apr Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Leading -0.3 0.4 -0.1 1.5 5.2 7.6 -12.8
Coincident 0.2 0.2 0.4 2.8 2.8 2.5 -7.7
Lagging 0.2 0.3 0.6 3.6 1.8 -2.9 -1.0
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