Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do the leading economic indicators suggest a recovery?

Here is a look a several important leading and coincident economic indicators. Leading indicators help forecast the future of the economy several months in advance. Coincident indicators reflect the current state of the economy.

Leading Indicators

The most reliable leading indicator is the slope of the Treasury yield curve. The slope is typically measured by the spread between the 10-year Treasury bond yield and the 3-month Treasury bill yield. An inverted yield curve (long-term rates lower than short-term rates) suggests a recession within the next year. Meanwhile, an upward sloping yield curve (long-term rates perhaps 1.0% or more higher than short-term rates) suggests a growing economy within the next year. I don't have a graph of the yield curve, but the spread is currently 3.33%, which suggests we are headed for a recovery.

New capital goods orders are a sign of a near-term recovery or decline. Here is the year-over-year percent change.

New building permits are another leading indicator. Due to the fact that we still have a housing bubble, I don't expect permits to turn around before the recession ends. Expecting housing to lead us out of this recession is like expecting technology to lead us out of the 2001 recession.

Coincident Indicators

While leading indicators forecast the future of the economy and thus tick up before a recovery, coincident indicators reflect the current state and thus should not tick up until the economy is actually recovering.

Year-over-year non-farm payrolls are still dropping like flies.

Year-over-year industrial production is still plunging.

Yet the year-over-year change in consumer sentiment is surprisingly strong, probably caused by the recently rising stock market (or vice-versa).

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