The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the US increased 0.2 percent in February to 121.4 following a 0.2 percent increase in January and a 0.4 percent increase in December indicates short-term growth.

Widespread gains among the leading indicators continue to point to short-term growth. However, easing in the LEI’s six month change suggests that we may be entering a period of more moderate expansion. With the February increase, the LEI remains in growth territory but weakness in the industrial sector and business investment is holding economic growth back despite improvements in labor markets and consumer confidence.”

Ataman Ozyildirim, Economist at the Conference Board

The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey

Released Thursday, it suggests current indicators for general activity and new orders were positive and remained near their low readings in February. Firms reported overall declines in shipments and in work hours while overall employment increased only slightly. The survey’s indicators of future activity showed mixed results but continued to suggest that the manufacturing sector will continue growing over the next six months.

The Federal Open Market Committee Report

Released 3/18, it suggests that since meeting in January, economic growth has moderated somewhat. Labor conditions have improved further with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate. Household spending is rising moderately; declines in energy prices have boosted household purchasing power. Business fixed investment is advancing while the recovery in the housing sector remains slow and export growth has weakened.

US Raw Steel Production

sank another 1.3 percent last week as mills operated at an annual capability utilization rate (ACUR) of 68.7 percent. In the corresponding week last year mills operated at an ACUR of 77.7 percent. Thus far this year mills have operated at an ACUR of 74.1 percent, down from 77.1 percent in the same period last year.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey

Released on Tuesday, it indicated that business activity continued to expand at a moderate pace for New York manufacturers. As in February, the indexes for the six-month outlook conveyed less optimism than in many of the preceding months and the capital spending and technology spending indexes declined.

I am going to play a little catch-up here with some economic data. My computer died from a virus several weeks ago, just got back up and running yesterday.

2/27/15 The Chicago Business Barometer

The Barometer plunged 13.6 points in February (to 45.8) its lowest level since July 2009 and the first time in contraction since April 2013. Commenting on the Chicago Report, Philip Uglow, Chief Economist of MN Indicators said,

It’s difficult to reconcile the very sharp drop in the Barometer with the recent firm tone of the survey. There’s some evidence to point to special factors such as the port strike and weather, although we’ll need to see the March data to get a better picture of underlying growth.”

03/02/15 The Institute for Supply Management

Its Report on Business for February reported “economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in February for the 26th consecutive month and the overall economy grew for the 69th month.” The report was issued by Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM,CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

The February PMI registered 52.9 percent, a decrease of 0.6 percentage point from January’s reading of 53.5percent.”

Now, as far as Hillary goes….

I’m sure you have all heard the story: at the time she was appointed Secretary of State, Hillary chose, “for convenience”, to use her own server, stored in her home, to conduct her personal and government business. This apparently was not a serious crime at the time, however it is widely known that as a government employee, all of your records are the property of the US government. At the very least she did not comply with the Obama administrations rules regarding the handling of employee email. None of her emails were given to the government until now, TWO YEARS after the initial requests were made.

Apparently there were some 60,000 emails involved, 30,000 of which SHE CHOSE to delete as personal in nature, being her property and not the property of the government . What is she hiding? Donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation? Perhaps emails regarding her screw up in Benghazi? She refuses to give the server over for investigation so it is possible we will never know. How convenient for her.

Since when does Hillary (or anyone else) get to make this decision? If she gets away with this, what would prevent any crooked politician or any common criminal under investigation, from refusing to supply their emails to the investigating body? That is just not right, in my view. I could not get away with it, nor could you. The Clinton family has been awash in scandal since arriving on the national scene, do we really want her as President of the United States? Ugh, I’m going to vomit. This story will not go away, nor should it.

International Issues

It is fairly reasonable to assume that Vladimir Putin was responsible for the assassination of his outspoken opponent, Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead while walking on the street near the Kremlin. Even Nemtsov’s girlfriend, who was with him at the time, states she saw nothing. Anyone fear for their life in Russia if they oppose Vlad?

In the meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his highly publicized address to the United States Congress on 3/3/15. Nothing new in his speech really; he is totally against Obama’s capitulations to Iran and outlined the possible outcomes of allowing Iran to attain nuclear weapon capability. It is all common sense really, does ANYONE want a nuclear armed Iran (NO)? Would it lead others in the region to seek nuclear capability (most likely)? Since Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, how long would it be before some irate mullah decides to push a button (I don’t have that answer but I don’t think it would take long)?

The Islamic state has taken responsibility for the deaths of 23 people in the attack on a museum in Tunis, Tunisia Wednesday. Real bags of crap these guys. They don’t stop and why should they? We have an imaginary 60 country coalition formed by the Anointed One yet no one is doing anything worthwhile to eliminate, degrade or otherwise ruin their party of murder and mayhem. What will it take?

Have a great first weekend of spring!