Index of U.S. leading indicators rose more than forecast in July

Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The index of U.S. leading economic indicators climbed more than forecast in July, a sign of sustained expansion in the world’s largest economy.

The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months increased 0.4 percent after a revised 0.4 percent drop in June, the New York-based group said today. Economists projected the gauge would rise by 0.2 percent, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Retail sales rose more than forecast last month, showing households are looking beyond the slowdown and increasing consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. The housing market also has signaled improvement. At the same time, unemployment remains above 8 percent, which is consistent with the Federal Reserve’s view that economic growth will “remain moderate over coming quarters.”

“What we’ve seen so far is a decent batch of July numbers, not necessarily convincing to the point that we’re going to see a sharp turnaround in the economy, but it is putting at bay concerns that we’re heading for another recession,” Sean Incremona, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, said before the report. “Housing is improving -- that’s helping the bottom line. But it’s still a very slow recovery.”

Estimates from 46 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from no change to an increase of 0.6 percent in the Conference Board’s leading index.

Seven Indicators

Seven of the 10 indicators in the index contributed to the increase, led by building permits and state jobless claims, while two indicators decreased. One, the average workweek, was unchanged in July.

The Conference Board’s index of coincident indicators, a gauge of current economic activity, increased 0.3 percent after rising 0.2 percent in June.

The coincident index tracks payrolls, incomes, sales and production -- the measures used by the National Bureau of Economic Research to determine the beginning and end of U.S. recessions.

The gauge of lagging indicators rose 0.4 percent in July after increasing a revised 0.1 percent the previous month.

Federal Reserve officials continue to monitor signs of cooling in the U.S. economy as joblessness has remained above 8 percent since February 2009 -- the longest stretch in the post- World War II era. Unemployment and the looming “fiscal cliff” -- when higher taxes and spending cuts are triggered at year-end unless Congress acts -- could hold back further gains in consumer spending.

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