Conference Board releases new economic indicators
New GDP data published in March 2019 by the Conference Board shows that growth has slowed to 2.6 per cent in the United States for the final quarter of the year, despite growing at nearly four per cent last year.
Growth is still above the U.S. economy’s long-term two-per cent trend. The U.S. can expect a further slowdown in growth due to fading effects of an anemic fiscal stimulus, but should remain above the trend for the year.
A tight labor market drives consumer spending, which stimulates rapid wage gains as businesses face a shrinking pool of workers. This could slow growth in 2019. A shift in Federal Reserve policy towards looser monetary policy should keep business confidence and investment sufficiently solid throughout 2019; however, much depends on inflation. If prices rise more rapidly than anticipated, the Federal Reserve may still raise interest rates later in 2019 to prevent the economy from overheating. This may become a greater risk if businesses pass rising labor costs onto their customers.
From a global perspective, 2019 sets up as a more challenging year for U.S. business than 2018. Growth in the Euro area and in China is slowing which will constrain opportunities for exports. A more favorable U.S. monetary policy environment can keep growth above two per cent into 2020 but cannot release the U.S. economy from limits imposed by slow demographic growth.
More promising is a rise in productivity growth observed during 2018. Spending on software and research and development accelerated rapidly last year and seems to have helped fuel productivity growth. Should this trend continue in 2019, businesses will have a chance to deploy new technologies and increase the efficiency of their workers. This represents the clearest path for keeping revenue and profit growth robust in 2019 and beyond.
The global economy, which is in the midst of a decade long slow growth environment, is characterized by an imminent productivity growth crisis. The looming labor shortage in mature economies and skill deficiencies in emerging markets will add further challenges to global economic prospects.
Updates as of March 19, 2019 include the Euro Area:
- Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the Euro Area increased 0.1 per cent in February 2019 to 114.8 (2016=100)
- Coincident Economic Index (CEI) for the Euro Area increased 0.1 per cent in February 2019 to 103.9 (2016=100)
- LEI for Mexico increased by 0.8 per cent in January 2019 to 101.7 (2016=100)
- CEI for Mexico was unchanged in January 2019 at 105.5 (2016=100)
- LEI for South Korea increased by 0.3 per cent in January 2019 to 103.8 (2016=100)
- CEI for South Korea increased by 0.8 per cent in January 2019 to 102.4 (2016=100)
- LEI for Australia increased by 0.1 per cent in December 2018 to 106.2 (2016=100)
- CEI for Australia increased by 0.2 per cent in December 2018 to 104.6 (2016=100)
The Conference Board is a U.S.-based, member-focused think tank that provides insights for what’s ahead.
In spite of tottering equity prices and pessimistic pronouncements at the beginning of 2019, not to mention unresolved macro-economic, political, and demographic trends, leading economic indicators remain reasonably favorable in the U.S. and in Continental Europe.