Economic Indicators Point to Promising 2003

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Basch, Times-Union business writer

After a year of mostly distressing economic news, things appear to be looking up a bit for 2003.

The Conference Board said yesterday that the U.S. Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose by 0.7 percent in November, the largest increase since December 2001, after rising 0.1 percent in November.

And the University of North Florida's Leading Economic Indicators Project reported that its index of leading indicators for the Jacksonville area rose for the second straight month in November, the first time the index increased two months in a row since LEIP started compiling the data this year.

The indexes of leading economic indicators are designed to predict economic activity three to six months ahead, so the recent gains suggest economic activity should be picking up early in 2003.

"The financial market slump seems to be lifting a little this autumn," said a statement by Ken Goldstein, economist for the Conference Board, a New York research firm that compiles the U.S. index.

"Recent consumer buying figures have somewhat allayed fears about a weak holiday season and consumer attitudes have also improved. The latest leading indicator readings show that at least some improvement is beginning to develop," Goldstein said.

The Jacksonville index compiled by LEIP rose 0.62 in November after rising 0.145 in October, leaving the index at 102. …