An economic indicator is a statistic that indicates the current status of the economy, and how the economy will likely perform in the future. Investors and other private or government organizations use this information as a tool to make business decisions. By gathering historical data about the economy and comparing it to current trends, you can compile a snapshot of economic fluctuations. The direction of an indicator may vary according to changes in the economy. The indicator can be leading, lagging, or coincident. Leading indicators are changes before the economy has recognized the change. Lagging indicators do not change until a few quarters after the economy has change. Coincident indicators move at the same time as the economy. GDP is a known coincident indicator (Economic About, 2006). Some of the common indicators are Real GDP, Retail Sales, Unemployment Rate, Inflation Rate, Housing Starts, and Savings rate. As the explanation of these six indicators will be use to forecast the future of the economy, the trend of these indicators will also be used to evaluate the economy's historical and future outcome. Real GDP
Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is used and described as "the Federal Reserve's primary goal is sustained growth of the economy with full employment and stable prices. Real GDP is the most comprehensive measure of the performance of the U.S. economy". (Federal Reserve Bank, 2006). The Federal Reserve Bank continues to say "By monitoring trends in the overall growth rate as well as the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation, policy makers are able to assess whether the current stance of monetary policy is consistent with that primary goal."
The GDP measures products and services purchased or sold. According to the National Council of Economic Education (NCEE, 2006) confirms "changes are more meaningful, as the changes in real GDP show what has actually happened to the quantities of goods and services, independent of changes in prices." Year
(billions of 2000 dollars)
"Among its peer group, the United States ranks first in economic growth with an average annualized seasonally adjusted real GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent from the first quarter of 2001 through the third quarter of 2005" (Saxton, 2005).
Trends in real GDP, as reported by National Council on Economic Education (2006) stated "the first three quarters of 2001, the rate of growth of real gross domestic product was actually negative as the U.S. economy entered a recession in March of 2001 lasting through November of 2001. The changes in real GDP were actually negative for the first time since 1993". Retail Sales
The retail industry varies at any given time and the fluctuation of the economy has a direct impact on the sales force. "Retail is the second largest industry in the U.S. by number of businesses and number of employees" (Plunkett Research, Ltd. 2005). There are several factors, primarily affecting the growth of retail sales, such as interest rates, inflation and/or population. According to Plunkett Research, Ltd there are several positive and negative attributes that influence the retail market. Those include:
Positive forces at work in the retail market today include:
Relatively low interest rates
Easy availability of consumer credit
A very strong job market coupled with relatively low unemployment rates
A relatively low personal savings rate (indicating a willingness to spend rather than save)
Higher stock market and personal investment values
Negative factors include:
Consumers have high debt levels
Global terrorism, tension and uncertainty
Consumers burdened with much higher energy costs including gasoline, home heating fuel, natural gas rates and electricity rates
A slowdown in housing market...
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