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U.S. National Economic Indicators

Economic indicators are variables that provide information about the state of the economy. They can be divided into three categories: leading, lagging and converging indicators. Each has advantages and disadvantages for investors and decision makers.

The National Economic Indicators of the United States are a collection of statistics that provide information about the current state and direction of the US economy. These include measures of production, income, employment, prices and financial markets. Some of the most commonly used indicators are the gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment rate, consumer price index (CPI) and stock market indicators. These figures help policy makers, companies and consumers make a wise decision on economic policies and actions.

The Economic Indicators are a monthly report prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers to the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress. It provides information on gross domestic product, income, employment, production, economic activity, prices, currency, credit, stock market, federal finance and international statistics.

Economic indicators are leading, consistent or lagging numbers that indicate general conditions. Economic indicators such as GDP, unemployment rate, inflation and specific prices inform economists, companies and investors not only about the current state of the economy but also about the direction of the economy. It. Economic indicators can be used to guide government policy or determine investment strategies.

Types of Economic Indicators

Economic indicators can be divided into categories or groups. Most of these economic indicators have specific release schedules that allow traders to prepare and schedule specific information at certain times of the month and year.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are those that predict the future movements of the economy. These include stock prices, average hours worked per week in the manufacturing sector, and new orders for capital goods. The advantage of leading indicators is that they can help investors and policymakers anticipate and prepare for economic change. The downside is that they are not always accurate and can give false signals.

Leading indicators such as yield curves, consumer durables, net business models, and stock prices are used to predict future movements in the economy. The numbers or data on these financial ratios will change or predict the economy, hence their category. The information coming from these indicators should be taken with a grain of salt, as they can be wrong.

Investors are most often interested in leading indicators because a correctly placed leading indicator means that certain indicators accurately predict the future. Leading indicators are prepared with broad economic assumptions. For example, many investors monitor future yield curves to predict how future interest rates might affect stock or bond returns. This analysis is based on historical data; based on the performance of the investment when the yield curve was last determined, some might assume that the same investment will repeat its performance.

Coincident Indicators

Converging indicators are those that change at the same time as the economy. These include gross domestic product (GDP), retail sales, and the employment rate.

Convergence measures, which include things like GDP, employment rate, and retail sales, are observed when certain types of economic activity take place. This metric class shows the activity of a particular region or region. Many politicians and economists monitor this data in real time as it gives the best picture of what is really going on. These types of metrics also allow decision makers to instantly use real data to make informed decisions.

The advantage of converging indicators is that they reflect the current state of the economy and can be used to confirm or refute the signals of the forward and backward indicators. The downside is that they don't provide any information about the future direction of the economy.

Convergence indicators are a bit less useful to investors because the economy has boomed. Unlike a forecast or prediction, a convergence indicator tells investors what is really happening at the moment. Convergence indicators are therefore only useful to those who can accurately explain how current economic conditions (i.e. falling GDP) will affect future periods.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators are indicators that change only when the economy begins to follow a particular pattern. These include the unemployment rate, interest rates, gross national product (GNP), trade balance, consumer price index (CPI), and total debt.

Lagging indicators such as Gross National Product (GNP), CPI, unemployment rate and interest rates are only visible after the end of a particular economic activity. As the name suggests, these tuples display information when an event occurs. This movement indicator is a technical indicator that emerges after major economic changes.

The advantage of lagging indicators is that they are more accurate and reliable than leading indicators. The disadvantage is that they can only be noticed after major economic changes have occurred, to which investors and policymakers may react too late.

The problem with lagging indicators is that the strategy or reaction to these indicators can be lagging. For example, by the time the Federal Reserve interprets CPI data and decides how best to conduct monetary policy to curb inflation, the numbers it sees are a bit outdated. While lagging indicators are still used by many governments and institutions, they also carry the risk of making wrong decisions due to incorrect assumptions about the modern economy.

Interpreting Economic Indicators

An economic indicator is only useful when interpreted correctly. History has shown a strong correlation between economic growth as measured by GDP and growth in corporate profits. However, it is nearly impossible to determine whether a given company can increase its profits based on a single measure of GDP.

The objective importance of interest rates, gross domestic product, current home sales or other indicators cannot be denied. Why is it objectively important? Because what you're really measuring is the value of money, spending, investment, and the activity level of most of the economy as a whole.

Like many other types of financial or economic indicators, economic indicators have a very large value relative to a certain period of time. For example, governments can see how the unemployment rate has changed over the past five years. An example of the unemployment rate is of little value; However, comparing it with previous periods allows analysts to better assess the statistics.

In addition, many economic indicators have benchmarks set by a government agency or other organization. It should be noted that the Federal Reserve's inflation target is usually 2%. The Federal Reserve then implements policy based on the CPI measurement to achieve this goal. Without this model, analysts and decision makers would not know what makes a good indicator a good or bad value.

The Stock Market As an Indicator

Leading indicators predict where the economy is headed. One of the leading indexes is the stock market itself. While this is not the most important lead indicator, most people pay attention to it. Because stock prices affect future performance, the market can tell the direction of the economy if earnings estimates are correct.

A strong market could indicate an increase in earnings estimates, which could indicate an increase in overall economic activity. Conversely, a bear market can indicate that a company's profits are expected to suffer. However, there are limits to the usefulness of the stock market as an indicator because valuations are not guaranteed, so there are risks involved.

In addition, stocks can be subject to price manipulation by Wall Street traders and corporations. Manipulation can include stock price manipulation through large-scale trading, complex derivative strategies, and innovative accounting rules, both legally and illegally. The stock market is also prone to "bubbles" that can lead to misjudgments about the market's direction.

Federal funds interest rate

The US Federal Reserve is committed to maintaining US employment at the highest level consistent with low and stable inflation. Their inflation target is currently 2%. It tries to achieve its goal by influencing the level of interest rates or the cost of credit in the economy. Lower interest rates stimulate the economy by encouraging consumers to buy goods and employers to invest in assets. Higher interest rates calm the economy by slowing consumption and investment. What is the interest rate today? The Federal Reserve at its meeting on May 4, 2022 raised interest rates by half a point to the range of 0.75-1.00.

Long-term interest rates refer to government bonds with a maturity of 10 years. The rate is primarily determined by the price the lender charges, the borrower's risk, and the reduction in the cost of capital. The long-term interest rate is usually the average daily interest rate, expressed as a percentage. These interest rates are implied by the prices at which government bonds are traded in financial markets, not by the rates at which loans are made. In any case, they refer to bonds whose redemption is guaranteed by the State. Long-term interest is one of the deciding factors for business investment. Low long-term interest rates encourage investment in new equipment, while high interest rates discourage investment. In turn, investment is the main source of economic growth.

Long-term interest rates in the US are determined by many factors, such as credit supply and demand, inflation expectations, monetary policy, and risk premiums. Long-term interest rates affect the economy in many ways, such as impacting the cost of credit, returns on savings and investments, and asset valuations. Long-term interest rates also affect fiscal policy and public debt. In this article, we will look at the trends and determinants of long-term interest rates in the United States and their economic and political implications.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Economic Indicators

Economic indicators are useful tools for understanding and predicting the economy, but they also have limitations. They need to be properly interpreted and analyzed in the context of other factors. They may also be subject to changes or errors during data collection and processing. Therefore, investors and politicians should rely not only on economic indicators but also on their own judgment and experience.

Pros of Economic Indicators

Economic indicators rely on data to predict what will happen in the future. With the right analytics, traders can use the data to execute successful trades or accurately assess future market conditions.

Economic indicators are usually free and publicly available because many economic indicators are developed by the US government. In addition, government-provided economic indicators usually have a fixed frequency and a fixed form of measurement. This means that you can usually rely on the indicator's calculation method and when it will be published.

  • It can accurately predict what will happen based on popular data
  • They often use publicly available information
  • Can be calculated multiple times using the same procedure (when issued by the government)

Cons of Economic Indicators

The obvious disadvantage of economic indicators, at least leading or matching, is that they rely on forecasts to some extent. While leading indicators are predictions about the future, even converging indicators can be based on assumptions. As a result, economic indicators do not always accurately predict the future and suggested actions may not work as expected.

Economic indicators, although reduced to a single number, can be very complex. For example, consider all variables including unemployment. From macroeconomic conditions to weather conditions affecting farm work, there can be too much leverage manipulating this rate, making it difficult to predict exactly what will happen.

Finally, economic indicators are somewhat open to interpretation. Consider an example when inflation fell from 4.6% to 4.5%. Is this considered a good change or should the reduction be larger? Economists and politicians often argue about the right approach to economic factors. While the data may be specific, the way they are interpreted can lead to different ways of estimating these indicators.

The future cannot be predicted accurately
It is based on many assumptions, some of which may be unpredictable
It can be explained because the data can indicate different things
It still requires experience in interpreting and understanding the results

What Is the Most Important Economic Indicator?

Any economist can come up with his or her favorite economic indicator. For many people, a country's GDP often gives the best overall picture of a country's economic health. It combines the monetary value of each product produced in the economy during a given period and takes into account household consumption, government purchases, and imports and exports.

Inflation is a lagging indicator that is reported after prices have risen. This type of economic indicator is very useful for government agencies in determining public policy because without this type of data, they would not know the direction of the economy. So while inflation and other lagging indicators are still useful to investors, they are not more useful for the indicators themselves (because they reflect the past) but for policy responses in the future.

The economy can be strong if levels of economic activity and job growth are maintained. This is measured by low unemployment, solid inflation, growth in the construction industry, a positive consumer index and GDP growth.

Consumer price index for all goods, where 2015 prices equal 100

The consumer price index (CPI) is a measure of the relative cost of goods and is used to calculate inflation. The consumer price index may be indexed for different years and may vary depending on the goods and consumers included in the calculation. Keep this in mind when comparing reported CPI values. This 2015 CPI is 100 and includes all goods purchased by all US consumers.

Leading indicators are not always accurate. However, looking at many of the leading indicators combined with other types of data can provide useful insights into the future state of the economy.

An ideal leading indicator will accurately predict changes in economic trends or business performance within a narrow range of estimates and over a long period of time. In practice, however, all the leading indicators show a shift in performance in this direction.

For example, the early warning of a recession provided by new orders for capital goods can take a long time to act. However, the historical time between the capital's tipping point and a specific target, such as a change in stock prices or GDP, can be 12 to 24 months. You get data showing that the action takes a long time, but with low accuracy on when to take the action.

Furthermore, the degree of change in new orders for capital goods may not have a consistent relationship with the change in GDP, making it inaccurate except as an indicator of time. Therefore, this indicator will be useful as a long-term warning signal, but will not support an accurate estimate of the duration or size of future trends.

A leading indicator, on the other hand, can provide very true and accurate information about a turning point or trend in the market or the economy, but only for a few months or a few quarters. Such an indicator can provide detailed data to gauge trends affecting your business or investments. But it may not deliver this information long enough to make the most of what you've learned.

Both types of leading indicators can be useful in themselves. However, none of them provide the complete picture needed to maximize performance. In practice, this means that using a variety of different leading indicators that are more or less precise, accurate and forward looking can provide the best chance to capitalize on future trends.

Leading Indicators

  • Measurable data can indicate potential changes to come in the economy before they happen. They can alert users to specific economic changes and/or changing trends.
  • Used by economists, analysts, businesses and investors to predict and act on economic/financial changes.
  • Not always accurate and can be improved by analyzing other economic data.
  • They are based on data related to the performance of different sectors of the economy.

Lagging Indicators

  • Measured data reflect the impact of economic activity after it occurs.
  • They can confirm with users certain economic and business trends, the quality of work, and the impact of business decisions.
  • Used by governments, businesses and investors to define future strategies based on proven (or untested) assumptions and expectations.
  • Data is considered up to date.
  • They are based on previous business-related financial events and results.

The Bottom Line

Leading indicators can be a very valuable tool for economists, investors, business owners and consumers. Used properly, they can signal upcoming changes and general trends in the economy.

However, there is no guarantee that the economy will perform as the leading indicators suggest, and it is very important to know which indicators are best suited to gauge them and how to use them correctly.

Economic Calendar

This economic calendar includes important economic releases and events from over 40 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The data includes current, forecast and past values, as well as the expected impact on the market. This makes the economic calendar a helpful tool for anyone who wants to stay up-to-date on current events or enrich their trading strategy with fundamental analysis. The widget also provides data on past releases and shows the dynamics of economic indicators using historical charts.

 

Business Formation Statistics
Total U.S. Business Applications were 435,629 in March 2024, virtually unchanged from February 2024.


March 2024: 0.0° % Change
February 2024 (r): -2.7° % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 3 days 7 hours ago

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Monthly Wholesale Trade: Sales and Inventories
February 2024 sales of merchant wholesalers were $673.7 billion, up 2.3 percent (+/- 0.4 percent) from last month. End-of-month inventories were $901.1 billion, up 0.5 percent (+/- 0.4 percent) from last month.


February 2024: +0.5 % Change in Inventories
January 2024 (r): -0.2* % Change in Inventories

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 4 days 7 hours ago

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U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services
The nation's international trade deficit in goods and services increased to $68.9 billion in February from $67.6 billion in January (revised), as imports increased more than exports.


February 2024: 68.9° Billions of Dollars
January 2024 (r): 67.6° Billions of Dollars

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 1 week 3 days ago

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Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders
New orders for manufactured goods in February, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, increased $8.2 billion or 1.4 percent to $576.8 billion.


February 2024: +1.4° % Change
January 2024 (r): -3.8° % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 1 week 5 days ago

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Construction Spending
Total construction activity for February 2024 ($2,091.5 billion) was 0.3 percent (+/-0.8 percent)* below the revised January 2024 ($2,096.9 billion).


February 2024: -0.3* % Change
January 2024 (r): -0.2* % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 1 week 6 days ago

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Advance Retail Inventories
February 2024 end-of-month inventories were $808.8 billion, up 0.5 percent (+/- 0.2%) from last month.


February 2024: +0.5 % Change in Inventories
January 2024 (r): +0.5 % Change in Inventories

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 weeks 2 days ago

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Advance U.S. International Trade in Goods
The advance international trade deficit in goods increased to $91.8 billion in February from $90.5 billion in January as imports increased more than exports.


February 2024: 91.8° Billions of Dollars
January 2024: 90.5° Billions of Dollars

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 weeks 2 days ago

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Advance Wholesale Inventories
February end-of-month inventories were $901.1 billion, up 0.5 percent (+/- 0.4 percent) from last month.


February 2024: +0.5 % Change in Inventories
January 2024 (r): -0.2* % Change in Inventories

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 weeks 2 days ago

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Advance Monthly Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders
New orders for manufactured durable goods in February, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, increased $3.7 billion or 1.4 percent to $277.9 billion.


February 2024: +1.4° % Change
January 2024 (r): -6.9° % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 weeks 5 days ago

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New Home Sales
Sales of new single-family houses in February 2024 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 662,000. This is 0.3 percent (+/- 16.2%)* below the revised January 2024 estimate of 664,000.


February 2024: -0.3* % Change
January 2024 (r): +1.7* % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 weeks 6 days ago

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New Residential Construction
Privately-owned housing starts in February 2024 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,521,000. This is 10.7 percent (+/- 14.2%)* above the revised January 2024 estimate of 1,374,000.


February 2024: +10.7* % Change
January 2024 (r): -12.3 % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 3 weeks 5 days ago

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Quarterly Financial Report - Retail
Seasonally adjusted after-tax profits for retail corporations with assets of $50 million and over were $48.3 billion for the fourth quarter 2023 (the 3 months ending January 31, 2024), up $4.4 (+/- 2.6) billion from third quarter 2023 (the 3 months ending October 31, 2023).


4th Qtr 2023: +4.4 Billions of Dollars
3rd Qtr 2023 (r): -5.6 Billions of Dollars

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 3 weeks 6 days ago

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Quarterly Financial Report
Manufacturing corporations' seasonally adjusted after-tax profits were $194.8 billion for the fourth quarter of 2023, down $30.2 (+/- 1.5) billion from third quarter of 2023.


4th Qtr 2023: -30.2 Billions of Dollars
3rd Qtr 2023 (r): +23.2 Billions of Dollars

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 3 weeks 6 days ago

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Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales
U.S. total business end-of-month inventories for January 2024 were $2,555.0 billion, virtually unchanged (+/- 0.1 percent)* from last month. U.S. total business sales were $1,833.3 billion, down 1.3 percent (+/- 0.2 percent) from last month.


January 2024: 0.0* % Change in Inventories
December 2023 (r): +0.3 % Change in Inventories

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 1 month ago

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Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services
U.S. retail and food services sales for February 2024 were $700.7 billion, up 0.6 percent (+/-0.5 percent) from the previous month.


February 2024: +0.6 % Change
January 2024 (r): -1.1 % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 1 month ago

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Quarterly Services Survey
U.S. selected services total revenue for the fourth quarter of 2023, adjusted for seasonal variation but not for price changes, was $5,398.9 billion, an increase of 1.9 percent (+/- 0.6 percent) from the third quarter of 2023 and up 6.6 percent (+/- 0.6 percent) from the fourth quarter of 2022.


4th Qtr 2023: +1.9 % Change
3rd Qtr 2023 (r): +0.7 % Change

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 1 month ago

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Housing Vacancies and Homeownership
The homeownership rate of 65.7 percent was not statistically different from the rate in the fourth quarter 2022 (65.9 percent). The homeownership rates, compared to the fourth quarter 2022, were lower in the Northeast and West, higher in the South, and not statistically different in the Midwest.


4th Qtr 2023: +65.7* Percent
4th Qtr 2022: +65.9 Percent

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 months 2 weeks ago

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Rental Vacancy Rate
The rental vacancy rate of 6.6 percent was higher than the rate in the fourth quarter 2022 (5.8 percent). Compared to fourth quarter 2022, the rental vacancy rate was higher in the South and West, and the rates were not statistically different in the Northeast and Midwest.


4th Qtr 2023: +6.6 Percent
4th Qtr 2022: +5.8 Percent

  U.S. National Economic Indicators

 2 months 2 weeks ago

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