An Investors’ Guide to Economic Indicators

July 1, 2015

An Investors’ Guide to Economic Indicators Photo

To keep your financial plan on the right track, it helps to know what is happening in the U.S. and global economies. But financial news stories reference a dizzying array of different economic indicators. How is the Consumer Confidence Index different than the Consumer Sentiment Index, and why is such attention given to what purchasing managers think?


We have created a guide, A Dozen Economic Road Signs to Guide Your Financial Decisions to the most widely reported (and meaningful) economic indexes. These indexes can serve as markers to follow while reviewing and adjusting strategies for investing. In fact, we do just that at Penn Mutual Asset Management as part of our investment philosophy which combines a top-down macroeconomic view with a bottom-up credit view. Our philosophy also considers the technical factors in the marketplace that influence pricing and performance. The three broad components, Macro, Credit, and Technical provide the analytical framework to execute strategic and tactical asset allocation, security selection, and position-sizing.

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The indicators covered in the guide relate predominately to the macroeconomic environment and include:

Economic Growth


  • Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • NBER Economic Cycles



  • Civilian Unemployment Rate
  • Total Nonfarm Payroll
  • Civilian Employment-Population Ratio



  • Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers
  • Producer Price Index

Energy Prices


  • Crude Oil Prices (Spot)
  • Gasoline Prices (Spot)

Consumer Activity


  • Retail and Food Service Sales
  • Auto and Light Truck Sales
  • Housing Starts

Consumer Sentiment


  • Consumer Confidence Index
  • Consumer Sentiment Index (CSI)

Household Wealth/Credit


  • Personal Income and Outlays
  • Household Debt to GDP

Business Activity


  • Purchasing Managers Index
  • Durable Goods Report

Currencies and Trade


  • Balance on Current Account
  • U.S. Dollar Index

Interest Rates


  • 10-Year Treasury Yield
  • Prime Rate



  • U.S. Public Debt
  • Federal Deficit

Macro Economy


  • Index of Leading Economic Indicators

If you've ever wondered what these indicators mean and how they relate to the overall economy and markets, how they are calculated, how often they are published, by whom, or how you can find them yourself, let us be your guide.

We will keep this guide available for your future reference, and, when economic indexes and indicators are mentioned in blog posts, we will be linking the phrase back to this guide.

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The material provided here is for informational use only. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Penn Mutual Asset Management.

This material is for informational use only. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Penn Mutual Asset Management.  This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and it is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy.

Opinions and statements of financial market trends that are based on current market conditions constitute judgment of the author and are subject to change without notice.  The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources deemed to be reliable but should not be assumed to be accurate or complete.  Statements that reflect projections or expectations of future financial or economic performance of the markets may be considered forward-looking statements.  Actual results may differ significantly.  Any forecasts contained in this material are based on various estimates and assumptions, and there can be no assurance that such estimates or assumptions will prove accurate.

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  All information referenced in preparation of this material has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information and Penn Mutual Asset Management shall have no liability for decisions based upon such information.

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