US: Leading Indicators

Thu Jun 21 09:00:00 CDT 2018

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

Non-accelerating but still solid growth is the signal from the index of leading economic indicators which rose 0.2 percent in May. Most of the index's 10 components are positive led once again by ISM new orders and by what are still low short-term interest rates. The slowing comes from building permits which have been mixed, factory hours which outside of May have been strong, and also jobless claims which, though edging higher compared to April, posted some of their best levels on record during the month.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
The spread between short rates and long rates is narrowing yet expectations for the index of leading economic indicators, where the yield spread has been a strong contributor, are solidly positive. Forecasters are calling for a 0.3 percent gain in May driven by exceptional strength in ISM manufacturing orders and the month's rise in the stock market.

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.