Conference Board’s Leading Economic Indicators Near Highs

Financial FAQs

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.6 percent in November to 105.5 (2004 = 100), following a 0.6 percent increase in October, and a 0.8 percent increase in September.

It is a further sign of strong U.S. growth in the months ahead, maybe as high as 4 percent over the next 2 quarters. GDP growth has already averaged 4.25 percent over the last 2 quarters.

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Graph: Trading Economics

“The increase in the LEI signals continued moderate growth through the winter season,” said Ken Goldstein, Economist at The Conference Board. “The biggest challenge has been, and remains, more income growth. However, with labor market conditions tightening, we are seeing the first signs of wage growth starting to pick up.”

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Graph: Econoday

“Widespread and persistent gains in the LEI point to strong underlying conditions in the U.S. economic expansion,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Economist at The Conference Board. “The current situation, measured by the coincident economic index, has been improving steadily, with employment and industrial production making the largest contributions in November.”

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Graph: Calculated Risk

Much of the better job numbers come from industrial production that increased 1.3 percent in November after edging up in October. Manufacturing output increased 1.1 percent, with widespread gains among industries. Factory output was well above its average monthly pace of 0.3 percent over the previous five months and was its largest gain since February. It is up 13.2 percent from its low point in 2009, according to Calculated Risk.

Janet Yellen’s Federal Reserve also helped to boost growth prospects with her post-FOMC press conference in which she said that the Fed’s rates would not increase until long term job and wage growth showed a sustained pickup.

Nobelist Paul Krugman believes the Fed might wait even longer to raise their rates. “Basically, while growth and job creation have finally been pretty good lately, there is so far no sign whatever that the economy is overheating. Core inflation remains below the Fed’s target (the Fed focuses on a different measure that usually runs lower than the CPI, so this report is actually fairly far below target.)

“In fact, the opposite is happening. Domestic and worldwide inflation continues to fall, largely because of falling oil prices, which signals less use of petroleum products, ergo slowing business activity in other parts of the world. The U.S. seems to be the exception, in what we have come to call a ‘goldilocks economy’—growth without overheating.”

So we seem to have returned to a goldilocks economy much like that the 1990s that sustained high job and economic growth with little or no inflation, thanks to plentiful oil supplies that are projected to last for several years, at least.

Harlan Green © 2014

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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