US: Leading Indicators

Thu Sep 21 09:00:00 CDT 2017

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous
Leading Indicators - M/M change 0.2% 0.1% to 0.5% 0.4% 0.3%

The index of leading economic indicators rose a solid 0.4 percent in August in results that, however, do not fully reflect the impact of Hurricane Harvey. The yield spread, reflecting low short-term rates, was a strong contributor as always as were once again consumer expectations and ISM new orders. Initial claims were the only one of 10 components that pulled down the index in what is likely to be repeated in September and perhaps October as well given hurricane effects. Yet, hurricanes aside, the report notes that underlying trends in the economy point to an extension of the current pace of solid growth. Other readings include an unchanged reading for the coincident index, down from a 0.3 percent rise in July, and a 0.3 percent August gain for the lagging index, up from July's 0.2 percent gain.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Low short-term interest rates and high consumer expectations have been underpinning the index of leading economic indicators which rose 0.3 percent in July following June's very strong 0.6 percent gain. Forecasters see the LEI coming in at plus 0.2 percent in August.

The index of leading economic indicators is a composite of 10 forward-looking components including building permits, new factory orders, and unemployment claims. The report attempts to predict general economic conditions six months out.

Investors need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the economy because it dictates how various types of investments will perform. By tracking economic data such as the index of leading indicators, investors will know what the economic backdrop is for the various markets. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers less rapid growth and is extremely sensitive to whether the economy is growing too quickly -- and causing potential inflationary pressures. The index of leading indicators is designed to predict turning points in the economy -- such as recessions and recoveries. More specifically, it was designed to lead the index of coincident indicators, also now published by The Conference Board. Investors like to see composite indexes because they tell an easy story, although they are not always as useful as they promise. The majority of the components of the leading indicators have been reported earlier in the month so that the composite index doesn't necessarily reveal new information about the economy. Bond investors tend to be less interested in this index than equity investors. Also, the non-financial media tends to give this index more press than it deserves.