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Economy in Brief

U.S. Leading Economic Indicators Improve Modestly
by Tom Moeller  April 17, 2015

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators from the Conference Board increased 0.2% during March (5.2% y/y) following a 0.1% rise, revised from 0.2%. A 0.3% rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The increase lessened three-month growth to 2.0% (AR). Sixty percent of the component series improved m/m. Fewer initial claims for unemployment insurance, a steeper interest rate yield curve, improved consumer expectations for business/economic conditions and the leading credit index led last month's index higher. Other component series improved slightly, but the contributions from the average workweek, ISM new orders and building permits were negative.

The index of coincident indicators edged 0.1% higher (2.8% y/y), the weakest increase since August. Three-month growth declined to 2.0%, its weakest since February of last year. Nonfarm payroll employment, personal income less transfers, and business sales each rose while industrial production declined.

The lagging indicators index increased 0.4% (3.3% y/y), the strongest rise since August. During the last three months, growth of 4.8% was up from 2.4% in December, suggesting a modest buildup of economic excess. The duration of unemployment and more C&I loans outstanding accounted for last month's increase.

The ratio of coincident-to-lagging indicators is a measure of how the economy is performing versus its excesses. It slipped for the third straight month.

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

Business Cycle Indicators (%) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Leading 0.2 0.1 0.2 5.2 5.8 3.3 2.1
Coincident 0.1 0.2 0.2 2.8 2.5 1.9 2.6
Lagging 0.4 0.3 0.3 3.3 3.8 3.8 3.1
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