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Conference Board Leading Economic Index Increases in December

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the U.S. increased 0.1 percent in December, following a 1 percent increase in November, and a 0.1 percent increase in October. The coincident economic index (CEI) increased 0.2 percent and the lagging economic index (LAG) increased 0.3 percent in December.

“Despite month-to-month volatility in the final quarter of 2013, the U.S. LEI continues to point to gradually strengthening economic conditions through early 2014,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at The Conference Board. “The LEI was lifted by its financial components in December, but consumer expectations for business conditions and residential construction continue to pose risks.”

The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. now stands at 99.4 (2004=100). This month’s gain was mostly driven by positive contributions from financial components. In the six-month period ending December 2013, the leading economic index increased 3.4 percent (about a 7 percent annual rate), much faster than the growth of 1.9 percent (about a 3.9 percent annual rate) during the previous six months. In addition, the strengths among the leading indicators have been more widespread than the weaknesses.

The CEI for the U.S., measure of current economic activity, increased to 108.1 (2004=100). The index rose 1.3 percent (about a 2.6 percent annual rate) between June and December 2013, an improvement from no growth over the previous six months. Additionally, the strengths among the coincident indicators have remained very widespread, with all components advancing over the past six months.

The lagging economic index continued to increase but at a slightly higher rate than the CEI, and the coincident-to-lagging ratio decreased. The LAG for the U.S. increased 0.3 percent to 121.2 (2004=100).

Real GDP expanded at a 4.1 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2013.

“This latest report suggests steady growth this spring, but some uncertainties remain,” said Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board. “Business caution and concern about unresolved federal budget battles persist, but the better-than-expected holiday season might point to sustained stronger demand and could put the U.S on a faster growth track for 2014.”

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