Quoted – Leading indicators drop, experts still expect “sluggish” economic growth

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The Conference Board reported Thursday the Leading Economic Index fell 0.1 percent in April, the first drop in a year, after a 1.3 percent gain in March and a 0.4 rise in February.  Nevertheless, economists still expect slow but steady economic growth in the months to come.

April’s dip is a sharp contrast with the year-earlier month, when the index rose 1 percent following consecutive decreases in the previous six months.

The Conference Board is a business-supported research organization. Its Leading Economic Index, composed of 10 economic indicators, is designed to predict economic activity. Typically, three consecutive LEI changes in the same direction usually reflect a turning point in the economy.

“I think we’re starting to make some headway,” said Scott Testa, an economics professor at Cabrini College in Philadelphia. “It’s going to be a steady slow climb. We’re not going to see anything dramatic, however, until fall, or maybe until 2011.”

The most influential lagging indicator is the unemployment rate, Testa said, which is “probably what the Fed looks at most for the inflation rate.” He continued, “When the Fed sees momentum, it’s going to start looking at raising interest rates again.”

Testa has a hunch that consumers will see inflation occur in oil and energy. “Energy has been kept in check two to three months, but the summer driving season combined with the Gulf situation is going to cause a small blip in prices and have long term affects on the price of food.”
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Quoted – Consumer pay a little more in March, inflation not yet problem

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Consumer pay a little more in March, inflation not yet problem

Prices paid by consumers in March rose slightly, a sign that inflation has not yet become a serious problem for the U.S. economy.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis last month, according to a Wednesday report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I think the Fed should keep interest rates low,” said Scott Testa, professor of business administration at Cabrini College. “I think to raise interest rates now would be a little premature.”

However, others think the Fed’s current policy on interest rates will be unsustainable in the future.

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Quoted – Rising energy prices lead to slight bump in January consumer prices

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Rising energy prices lead to slight bump in January consumer prices

“I think what you’re seeing is a natural, gradual number, nothing dramatic and nothing very surprising. It was right around what most people expected,” said Scott Testa, an economics professor at Cabrini College in Philadelphia.

As the economy climbs out of a recession and short-term interest rates remain at historic lows, much attention is being paid to indicators of inflation.

Testa said the CPI “shows that the typical consumer was not being squeezed. Seventy percent of the economy is based on consumer spending, so numbers like this, that would give consumers an advantage for spending, I think are encouraging.”

Friday’s CPI increase was minimal as compared to the 1.4 percent jump in the Producer Price Index, another inflation measure focused on prices at the wholesale level. According to Testa, the divergence isn’t very significant.

“I’d be more concerned if both numbers are dramatically up. I take it with a grain of salt when looking at one specific set of numbers over a short period of time.”

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