Categories are graded from A thru F:
Economic Growth: D+
Overall economic growth was about the same this month compared to last, and the results for our economic growth metrics were mixed. The revised fourth quarter GDP growth rate increased to 5.9% from the preliminary estimate of 5.7%. Much of the growth was still the result of recent government stimulus and an increase in inventories. The pace of job losses also eased this month, although in the last 12 months the U.S. has lost 3.24 million jobs, which is equal to a decline of 2.5% of the total payroll workforce. The unemployment rate remained flat this month at 9.7%, while the broader measure of unemployment, the U-6, increased to 16.8%. The length of unemployment in the labor force declined slightly to just under 30 weeks this month, yet remains the second highest month on record since the BLS began tracking the statistic in 1948. Personal income improved in January and has returned to positive year-over-year growth for the first time since December 2008, increasing by 1.1%. The CPI (all items) decreased to 2.6% from one year ago, while the Core CPI (minus food and energy) also dropped to 1.6%.
Leading Indicators: C
Overall leading indicators held relatively steady this month, but several individual metrics actually improved. The Leading Economic Index 6-month growth rate declined in January to 9.8% from 12.2% last month, and remains very high compared to history. The ECRI Leading Index – an indicator of future U.S. growth – increased in January to its highest level since May 2008. The index increased 21.5% year-over-year, and has experienced positive year-over-year growth for the past 8 months. Stocks improved in February after declining in January, and all four major indices have now experienced large positive year-over-year growth, ranging from +46% to +62%. The S&P Homebuilding Index also improved this month. The spread between corporate bonds and the 10-year treasury fell in January, declining to 160 bps after peaking at nearly 270 bps in March. Since the 10-year treasury is seen as a risk-free investment, the spread between corporate bonds and the 10-year treasury displays the perceived risk of investing in corporate bonds, which has declined recently as Wall Street has become less worried about businesses failing. According to the 4th quarter CEO Confidence Index, CEOs are now much more confident about the economy. Despite the increase, the outlook index remains lower than earlier this decade. Business credit availability remains very poor, but deteriorated at a slower rate in the first quarter of 2010.