Economic indicators tick higher

By Ruth Mantell/MarketWatch

WASHINGTON – A “mild pickup” could be in store for the U.S. economy in 2011 following a slow winter, the Conference Board said Friday, noting that most leading economic indicators were positive last month.
The Conference Board’s leading economic index rose 1.1 percent in November, the biggest gain since March.
“Continuing strength in financial indicators is now joined by gains in manufacturing and consumer expectations, but housing remains weak,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at the New York-based Conference Board, in a statement.
“Possible clouds” on the horizon for the medium term are ongoing weakness in housing and jobs, the Conference Board added.
Nine of the 10 component indicators included in the index rose in November, with the largest positive contribution coming from the index of supplier deliveries. Building permits were the only negative contributor.
“Strengths among the leading indicators have become slightly more widespread than the weaknesses in recent months,” according to the Conference Board.
Other positive contributions in November came from: the interest-rate spread, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance, the real money supply, stock prices, the index of consumer expectations, average weekly manufacturing hours, manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials, and manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods.
“To us, this report provides further confirmation of the positive momentum that we have seen in the recent economic reports, and it suggests that the U.S. economic recovery has gained significant strength in the last quarter of this year,” wrote Millan Mulraine, TD Securities economics strategist, in a research note.
November’s result matched Wall Street’s expectations. The leading economic index for October was revised down to 0.4 percent, from a prior estimate of 0.5 percent.