Leading Indicators: Slow and Steady for January

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index rose 0.2% in January to 94.1, according to a Conference Board report [link opens in PDF] released today. Although this month's numbers failed to meet market expectations of a 0.3% bump, they point to steady growth following December's 0.5% increase. November had clocked no month-to-month change.

According to Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein: "The indicators point to an underlying economy that remains relatively sound but sluggish. Credit use has picked up, driven in part by relatively strong demand for auto loans. The biggest positive factor is housing. The housing market is now at twice the level reached during its recessionary lows, and will likely continue to improve through the spring, delivering some growth momentum to the labor market and the overall economy. The biggest risk, however, is the adverse impact of cuts in federal spending."

Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim also noted weakness in manufacturers' new orders, consumer expectations, and industrial production as reasons behind the slow growth.

The Leading Economic Index attempts to identify economic turning points by aggregating a variety of individual indicators. It uses 2004 as a benchmark 100 score, and dropped as low as 78 in 2009 and as high as 108 in 2006 .

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