Business-Cycle Conditions

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Business Cycle Conditions

April, 2012
Businesses and consumers are driving the expansion. But lessons learned from the financial crisis are holding the pace of growth in check.
by Polina Vlasenko, PhD, Research Fellow

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Expectations are a key concept in economics. If expectations are coordinated, then the economy is equilibrated and no accumulation of imbalances take place.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

When you can't be sure, remember that whatever the government tells you... it's the opposite.

The Economist reports that:
Monday, March 5th, 2012

"Bears are animals. Animals have four legs. Chairs have four legs. Therefore, chairs love honey." What's wrong with this logic? Don't ask opponents of the Classical Gold Standard...

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Leading Indicators 

(All dollar-denominated series are adjusted for price inflation.)

M1 money supply. An estimate of money balances (primarily currency and demand deposits). When M1 does not keep pace with inflation, bank lending may contract, and hence economic activity.

Yield Curve Index. The cumulative total of the monthly spread between the 10-year Treasury note and the effective federal funds rate. When the yield on the 10-year note is lower than the effective federal funds rate, the index will turn downward (i.e., the yield curve inverts), a signal that interest rates and the economy are headed even lower in the future.

Index of manufacturers’ supply prices.  The percentage of purchasing agents who report paying higher prices in the current month compared with the preceding month. A higher index indicates stronger demand for business inputs relative to their supply.

New orders for consumer goods and materials. All new orders for goods and materials used primarily by consumers (less food and energy). The placing of such orders tends to precede production of consumer goods.

New orders for core capital goods. The value of new orders received by manufacturers of nondefense and non-aircraft capital goods. The placing of such orders tends to lead machinery production and production of the goods that machinery later produces.

New housing permits.  Tends to lead construction expenditures.

Ratio of manufacturing and trade sales to inventories. The balance between sales and inventories. Faster inventory growth relative to sales suggests a structural imbalance within the manufacturing sector.

Vendor performance. The percentage of purchasing agents who experience slower deliveries in the current month compared with the preceding month. Slower deliveries indicate a higher volume of business activity.

Index of common stock prices.  Uses monthly averages of daily indexes of closing prices from Standard & Poor’s 500 stock composite index. Changes in stocks prices reflect changes in investors’ opinions of profit prospects. Index is adjusted for price inflation.

Average workweek in manufacturing.  The total of paid labor-hours of manufacturing production workers divided by the number of such workers. Employers tend to reduce the workweek of their labor force before they reduce the size of their workforce.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance.  Inverted for analysis. Measures the average number of persons who file first-time claims for unemployment compensation each week in a given month. A decline in general business activity leads to layoffs.

Change in consumer debt.  Percent change in the amount of consumer debt outstanding during the month from the amount three months earlier. Consumer debt includes auto loans and credit card debt, but not home mortgages or home equity loans. Borrowing is a source of consumer purchasing power

Coincident Indicators

Nonagricultural employment. The number of persons on the payrolls of all establishments, except agriculture. Labor is used in the production of goods and services and employment is the main source of household income and purchasing power.

Index of industrial production. The physical volume of goods produced by the manufacturing, mining, and electric utility sectors. Although the industries covered account for about 25 percent of GDP, they account for the bulk of the volatile movements in business activity.

Personal income less transfer payments.  Derived by subtracting transfer payments, which are often counter cyclical, from total personal income. Personal income is the main component of consumer purchasing power.

Personal income includes compensation for labor, proprietors' income, rental income, and income from interest and dividends. Transfer payments include government payments for programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.

Manufacturing and trade sales. The aggregate value of sales by the manufacturing, wholesale, and retail trade sectors of the economy.

Ratio of civilian employment to population.  The number of persons 16 years of age or older who are employed in the nonfarm sector divided by the total non-institutional population 16 years of age or older. A rising ratio may indicate tightness in the labor market.

Gross Domestic Product.  The market value of all final goods and services produced within the nation’s borders. This is the broadest measure of economic output, spending, and income.

Lagging Indicators

Average duration of unemployment.  The average number of weeks that unemployed persons have been looking for work. This is an indication of tightness in the labor market. Changes in this series are inversely related to business fluctuations. The series is inverted for analysis.

Manufacturing and trade inventories. The aggregate dollar book value of inventories of materials, goods in process, and finished goods stocked by the manufacturing, wholesale, and retail sectors of the economy. It peaks after the economy begins to slow, as sales fall short of projections.

Commercial and industrial loans. The amount of short-term business loans and commercial paper issued. Declining profits usually increase the demand for loans.

Ratio of consumer debt to personal income.  The credit used to finance personal consumption (excluding home mortgages and home equity loans) relative to the aggregate value of incomes received by individuals, unincorporated businesses, and nonprofit institutions. This ratio is an indication of the willingness and ability of consumers to incur debt in relation to their income.

Change in labor cost per unit of output, manufacturing.  The relationship between the volume of production of manufactured goods and the cost of the labor involved in that production. Rising labor costs signal a squeeze on profits.

Composite of short-term interest rates. The monthly average of the 30-day commercial paper rate and the 3-month Treasury bill rate. Rising interest rates suggest a developing credit squeeze.

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Business Cycle Conditions

February, 2012
Thanks to an upswing in the building of multi-family structures, the construction slump may be over. If the trend continues, the industry may never be the same.
by Polina Vlasenko, PhD, Research Fellow 

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
For economics, money seems to be the exception to the rule, the thing that the market cannot provide by itself.  Therefore, it is said, the economist and the government must step into the market (in the form of a central banks and regulators) to manage the money supply and regulate the banking secto
Monday, January 16th, 2012

Business Cycle Conditions

January, 2012
Some areas of the economy are gaining strength. But the labor market lags behind increased productivity. 

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
A few days ago, Paul Krugman defended the position that "Friedrich Hayek is not an important figure in the history of macroeconomics." This triggered quite a few reactions (
Monday, December 12th, 2011
The financial crisis in 2008, the uncertainty about the future of the Euro and the doubts on the efficiency of monetary policy has brought some renewed interest in the gold standard as an alternative monetary system; or, at least, as a benchmark to evaluate if central banks did actually performed be
Monday, December 5th, 2011

Libertarians, some Occupy supporters are among those calling for an end to the Federal Reserve

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Business Cycle Conditions

December, 2011
Unemployment and slow growth of consumer spending are holding back the recovery.
Lingering problems in Europe may add to the burden.
by Polina Vlasenko, PhD, Research Fellow

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
I’m trying to wrap my brain around the recent wave of ‘respectable’ economists coming out in favor of higher inflation.
Friday, November 4th, 2011

Business Cycle Conditions

November, 2011
GDP growth is close to the long-term trend. But the driving economic engine created by consumer spending could run out of juice.
by Polina Vlasenko, PhD, Research Fellow

Saturday, October 29th, 2011
It is a common argument that the gold standard was one of the reasons of the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve, it is argued, was unable to follow an optimal monetary policy, with its hands tied with the gold standard regime. However, as Timberlake (2008, p.
Friday, October 21st, 2011
The Financial Crisis of 2008 brought attention, once more, to the problem of business cycles. There are different approaches to study the phenomenon of business cycles. Some of them rest on shocks to the real economy (i.e.
Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Score Update: Government beating economy 21-3 late in 4th quarter…I hate to use sports metaphors when talking about the economy because, while the two realms share some basic themes (like competition), their outcomes are radically different.