Conference Board Leading Indicators Reach 7-Year High

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The Conference Board on Thursday released its report on February’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) showing a month-over-month gain of 0.6%, a fifth consecutive monthly increase. For the six-month period through February, the LEI has gained 4%, which pencils out to an annual gain of 8.2%.

The LEI reading for February was 108.7, up 4.2 points from the August 2017 level of 104.5. The six-month index gain is the largest of any six-month period going back to February of last year.

The LEI is a composite average of 10 individual leading indicators, including average weekly hours (manufacturing), average weekly new claims for unemployment benefits, and building permits and new private housing units. An index of 100 is based on data for 2016.

The Conference Board also reported a Coincident Economic Index (CEI) reading of 103.3 in February, up 0.3 points from the January index. All four indicators that comprise the CEI rose in February and are up 1.5% for the six-month period through February.

The Conference Board noted:

The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. continued its upward trend in February, reaching its highest six-month growth rate since March 2011. Meanwhile, The Conference Board CEI for the U.S. has also been rising steadily, with widespread strengths among its components. Continued improvements among the composite indexes suggest that the expansion in economic activity will continue in the near term.

That conclusion squares pretty well with other economic data and comments Wednesday by Fed Chair Jerome Powell regarding the U.S. economy.

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