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Economic Watch: Confidence, Existing Home Sales Move Higher, Navistar Stock Plummets

June 20, 2013

By Evan Lockridge

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The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index for the U.S. increased 0.1% in May to 95.2 following a 0.8 percent jump in April, and a 0.3% decline in March.

The measure is used to gauge the health of the U.S. economy three to six months down the road.

“Despite month-to-month volatility, the LEI’s six-month growth rate remains steady, suggesting that conditions in the economy remain resilient,” says Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at The Conference Board. “Widespread gains in the leading indicators over the last six months suggest there is some upside potential for economic activity in the second half of the year.”

“Growth will depend on continued improvement in the housing market and an easing of consumer and business caution which would allow overall consumption and investment to gain traction,” says Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board. “Cutbacks in public spending programs and the drag from foreign trade remain headwinds.”

A separate report Thursday from the National Association of Realtors shows existing home sales in May rose to the highest level in three years. The 4.2% increase from April put the annual rate at 5.18 million

Lawrence Yun NAR chief economist, said the recovery is strengthening and to expect limited housing supplies for the balance of the year in much of the country. 

“The housing numbers are overwhelmingly positive, however, the number of available homes is unlikely to grow, despite a nice gain in May, unless new home construction ramps up quickly by an additional 50%,” he said. “The home price growth is too fast, and only additional supply from new homebuilding can moderate future price growth.”

Despite these positive economic reports Wall Street is not as optimistic about the economy. Stocks tumbled on Thursday as the Dow Jones had its worst day of the year. The sell-off started on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake said the central bank may ease off of its bond purchasing efforts designed to stimulate the economy.

Among the biggest drops on Thursday was Navistar International with shares falling 11% following news that production at its Navistar Defense plant in West Point, Miss. is being suspended in response to federal budget cuts.

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