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Economy in Brief

U.S. Leading Indicators Strengthen In April
by Tom Moeller  May 20, 2021

• Leaders' improvement is broad-based.

• Coincident indicators increase.

• Lagging indicators suggest less economic slack.

The Conference Board's Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators strengthened 1.6% (17.0% y/y) during April following an unrevised 1.3% March gain. The Action Economics Forecast Survey anticipated a 1.3% rise in April. The Leading Index is comprised of 10 components which tend to precede changes in overall economic activity.

Component increases in the leading indicators index reflected an improved ISM new orders index, fewer initial unemployment insurance claims, higher stock prices, a steeper interest rate yield curve and improved consumer expectations.

The Index of Coincident Economic Indicators increased 0.3% (12.2% y/y) following a 0.9% March rise, revised from 0.6%. Each of the four component series contributed positively to the April gain, as they did in March, including industrial production, nonfarm payrolls, personal income and manufacturing & trade sales.

The Index of Lagging Indicators increased 1.8% (-9.3% y/y) during April following a 3.7% March drop, revised from -0.5%. A higher consumer installment credit/income ratio accounted for nearly all of the rise, with a stronger services CPI and a longer duration of unemployment also contributing positively.

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

Business Cycle Indicators (%) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2020 2019 2018
Leading 1.6 1.3 -0.1 17.0 -4.9 1.6 5.6
Coincident 0.3 0.9 -0.7 12.2 -4.3 1.6 2.4
Lagging  1.8 -3.7 2.5 -9.3 1.0 2.8 2.5
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