United States Economic Indicators

There are many economic indicators that economists and financial advisors and investors look at.  Here are some of the major indicies that economists and investors look for and analyze for indications of where the U.S. economy is heading (in Alphabetical Order):

  • Consumer Confidence Index (CCI):  This measures how confident consumers feel about the state of the economy and their spending power.  The more positive the CCI is the more likely the consumer will go out and spend.  This data is released on the last Tuesday of the month at 10:00 am EST and is published by the Conference Board Company. http://www.conference-board.org/economics/ConsumerConfidence.cfm
  • Consumer Price Index (CPI) This is the most widely used measure of inflation.  This measures the price of a fixed basket of goods purchased by the average consumer, including food, transportation, shelter, utilities, clothing, medical care, entertainment and other items.  It is widely used to adjust things like Social Security payments, sometimes union contracts, tax brackets, salaries, and TIPS Treasury Inflation Protected Securities U.S. Treasury Offerings Section.  The Consumer Price Index is published monthly and released at 8:30am EST around the 15th of each month. http://www.bls.gov/cpi

  • Durable Goods Orders:  This measure’s how much people are spending on things that will last more than 3 years such as cars and appliances and is broken down by industry.  It is reported around the 26th of every month, and is released at 8:30am EST, by the U.S. Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/briefroom/BriefRm
  • Employment Cost Index:   This measure changes in employer payroll costs, which includes salaries, wages, benefits and bonuses.  A significant increase usually signals inflation.  It is produced quarterly by the U.S. Department of Labor around 8:30EST, near the end of the first month of the quarter for the prior quarter.  http://www.bls.gov/news.release/eci.toc.htm
  • Employment Indicators:   These include: Unemployment (percentage of the work force that is unemployed); Number of new jobs created, which are compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The BLS is also a good source for statistics on the economy:  There are various employment announcements by BLS on the first Friday of every month at 8:30am EST.  Indicators are   http://www.bls.gov/bls
  • Government Index of Leading Economic Indicators:   This measures how strong the economy is.  Since this is a leading economic indicator it generally changes before the economy as a whole:   http://www.conference-board.org/economics/bci/pressRelease_output.cfm?cid=1
  • Government Spending –See Politics below:
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP):  The value of all the goods and services (by labor and property) produced in the United States.  This includes: consumer and government purchases, private investments, and net exports of goods and services.  The U.S. economy has historically grown around 2.5-3% annually, and considerable change in this range can have significant impact on the financial market.  It is published quarterly by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and is released at 8:30am EST on the last day of each quarter. http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm

  • Housing Starts/Building Permits:  This shows the number of new homes, or units (one apartment building with 30 unites would be reported as 30 new housing starts), that have been started in the latest period.  If builders are building that is a good sign for the economy.  The data is released at 8:30am EST, by the U.S. Census Bureau around the 17th of each month.  http://www.bankrate.com/rates/interest-rates/prime-rate.aspx; http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/domestic-finance/debt-management/interest-rate/daily_treas_bill_rates.shtml
  • ISM Manufacturing Report On Business:  This is a index based on a survey of purchasing managers which eights new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries and inventories.  It is produced by Institute of Supply Management (ISM) monthly on the first business day of the month around 10:00 EST.  http://www.ism.ws/ISMReport/
  • Industrial Production:  This measure the total output/production of all U.S. factories and mines.  It is produced by the Federal Reserve Board, and comes out around 9:15 EST around the 15th of the month.  http://www.federalreserve.gov/Releases/g17/
  •  Interest Rates:   If money is cheap to borrow, both businesses and consumers will be more inclined to borrow it—when the rate is higher, the opposite is true.  Look at the U.S. Treasury Bill Rate and the Prime Lending Rate as two key indicators: http://www.wsjprimerate.us.
  • Money Supply:  The Federal Reserve Board can tighten or ease money supply through the Federal Funds Rate.  One of the publications that can provide some insight is The Beige Book, which is published 8 times a year and is released two Wednesdays before each of the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting.  At these meetings the Federal Reserve Board discusses how economic conditions can tighten or ease the money supply through the Federal Funds Rate ("the rate of interest on overnight loans of excess reserves made among commercial banks").   For further information go to the Federal Reserve Board’s Website: http://www.federalreserve.gov .
  • Producers Price Index (PPI):   This measures the change in wholesale prices.  It is closely watched because an increase in the PPI will eventually alter consumer prices.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces the PPI which is released at 8:30am EST during the second full week of each month. http://www.bls.gov/ppi
  • Retail Sales Index:  These measure goods sold in the U.S. These are advanced numbers and can change significantly.  They are produced by the U.S. Census Bureau, another great source for statistics on the economy, and are released at 8:30 am EST around the 12th of the month.  Figures are published with and without auto. http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/briefroom/BriefRm
  • Tax Changes:   Any increase in taxes or tax cuts can affect consumer and business outlooks and their pocketbooks.  For changes listen to the news, ask your accountant or go to the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/index.html.
  • University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (MCS):   This measures consumers’ confidence in their own personal finances, business conditions and purchasing power.  How confident is the consumer in the direction of the economy? Consumers will spend freely if they have little or no financial worries, but spend less if they think they might lose their jobs.  This index should be viewed along with the Consumer Confidence Index.  This index is published monthly and released around the 10th of each month http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu.