Pointing to a more positive outlook for U.S. economic activity in the first half of 2012, the Conference Board released a report on Thursday showing a slightly bigger than expected increase by its index of leading economic indicators in the month of February.
The Conference Board said its leading economic index rose by 0.7 percent in February following a revised 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists had expected the index to rise by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.4 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.
Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, said, "Recent data reflect an economy that improved this winter."
"To be sure, an unseasonably mild winter has contributed to many of the recent positive economic reports," he added. "But the consistent signal for the leading series suggests that progress on jobs, output, and incomes may continue through the summer months, if not beyond."
The increase by the leading index reflected positive contributions from eight of the ten indicators that make up the index, including weekly jobless claims, the interest rate spread, stock prices, building permits, and average weekly manufacturing hours.
On the other hand, negative contributions from average consumer expectations for business conditions and the Institute for Supply Management's new orders index limited the upside for the index.
The report also showed that the coincident economic index edged up by 0.2 percent in February following a matching increase in the previous month.
Positive contributions by manufacturing and trade sales, non-farm payroll employment, and personal income less transfer payments contributed to the increase by the coincident index.
The Conference Board said its lagging economic index also rose by 0.2 percent in February after climbing by 0.5 percent in January.
The increase by the lagging index reflected positive contributions from the ratio of consumer installment credit to personal income, the average duration of unemployment and the change in unit labor costs.
by RTT Staff Writer
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