Last updateThu, 22 Mar 2018 4pm


Leading Economic Indicators Rose in January

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased 1.0% in January to 108.1, following a 0.6% increase in December, and a 0.4% increase in November.

“The U.S. LEI accelerated further in January and continues to point to robust economic growth in the first half of 2018. While the recent stock market volatility will not be reflected in the U.S. LEI until next month, consumers’ and business’ outlook on the economy had been improving for several months and should not be greatly impacted,” said The Conference Board’s Ataman Ozyildirim. “The leading indicators reflect an economy with widespread strengths coming from financial conditions, manufacturing, residential construction, and labor markets.” 

IHS Markit Manufacturing Index Rose in February

U.S. manufacturers reported a strong upturn in business conditions during February, which continued the positive trend seen at the start of 2018. At 55.9, up from 55.5 in January, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) pointed to the fastest improvement in overall business conditions since October 2014. A sharp and accelerated rise in incoming new business helped to boost the headline PMI in February, while manufacturing production growth was little-changed since January. The latest rise in new order volumes was the steepest for around three-and-a-half years, which survey respondents attributed to greater sales to domestic clients alongside further export gains. 

Survey Finds Surge in Confidence of Small Business Owners

CNBC and SurveyMonkey recently announced the results of their quarterly Small Business Survey. According to the findings, 47% percent of small-business owners say overall business conditions are good, up from 44% in the fourth quarter of 2017. Also, 32% of small business owners expect to increase their staff of full-time employees in the next 12 months.

Small business owners would prefer Washington focus on health care in 2018, with 30% of respondents say health care should be Congress and the Trump Administration's first priority this year. This is followed by infrastructure (23%) and immigration (18%). 

Construction Starts in 2017 Decline 7%

Many of the leading U.S. metropolitan areas for commercial and multifamily construction starts showed reduced activity in 2017 compared to levels reported during 2016, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. Of the top ten markets ranked by the dollar amount of construction starts, seven registered declines, one was essentially unchanged, and just two showed greater activity in 2017. For the metropolitan areas ranked 11 through 20, the 2017 performance was more evenly balanced, with four reporting declines, one essentially unchanged, and five reporting gains. At the national level, the volume of commercial and multifamily construction starts was $194.7 billion, down 7% from 2016, although still 8% above the amount reported for 2015. 

Philly Fed: Manufacturing Activity Expanded Solidly

The index for manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve region increased 4 points in February to a reading of 25.8. The index has stayed within a relatively narrow range over the past nine months. Nearly 41% of the firms indicated increases in activity this month, while 15% reported decreases. The demand for manufactured goods, as measured by the survey’s current new orders index, showed notable improvement: The diffusion index increased 14 points, with 41% of the firms reporting an increase in new orders this month. The current shipments index remained positive but fell 15 points to 15.5. Both the unfilled orders and delivery times indexes were positive, suggesting an increase in unfilled orders and slower deliveries. 



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