Economic indicators are snippets of financial and economic data published regularly by governmental agencies and the private sector. These statistics help market observers monitor the economy’s pulse – so it’s no surprise that they’re religiously followed by almost everyone in the financial markets.
With so many people poised to react to the same information, economic indicators have tremendous potential to generate volume and to move prices. It might seem like you need an advanced economics degree to parse all this data accurately – but in fact traders need only keep a few simple guidelines in mind to making trading decisions based on this data.
Mark your economic calendars
Know exactly when each economic indicator will be released. You can find these calendars at the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s site; FOREX.com clients can simply login to MyAccount and click on Economic Calendars.
Watching the economic calendar not only helps you consider trades around these events, it helps explain otherwise unanticipated price actions during those periods. Consider this scenario: it’s Monday morning and the USD has been in a tailspin for 3 weeks, with many traders short USD positions as a result. On Friday, however, U.S. employment data is scheduled to be released. If that report looks promising, traders may start unwinding their short positions before Friday, leading to a short-term rally in USD through the week.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The sum of all goods and services produced either by domestic or foreign companies. GDP indicates the pace at which a country’s economy is growing (or shrinking) and is considered the broadest indicator of economic output and growth.
A chain-weighted measure of the change in the production of the nation’s factories, mines and utilities, industrial production also measures the country’s industrial capacity and how fully it’s being used (capacity utilization).
The manufacturing sector accounts for one-quarter of the major currencies’ economies, so it’s critical to watch the health of factories and whether their capacity is being maximized.
Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)
The National Association of Purchasing Managers (NAPM), now called the Institute for Supply Management, releases a monthly composite index of national manufacturing conditions. The index includes data on new orders, production, supplier delivery times, backlogs, inventories, prices, employment, export and import orders. It is divided into manufacturing and non-manufacturing sub-indices.
Producer Price Index (PPI)
Measures average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers in the manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and electric utility industries.
The PPIs most often used for economic analysis are those for finished goods, intermediate goods, and crude goods.
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Measures the average price level paid by urban consumers (80% of the population in major currency countries) for a fixed basket of goods and services. It reports price changes in over 200 categories.
The CPI also includes various user fees and taxes directly associated with the prices of specific goods and services.
Durable Goods Orders measures new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. A durable good is a product that lasts over three years, during which its services are extended.
Companies and consumers sometimes put off purchases of durable goods during tough economic times – so this figure is a useful measure of certain kinds of customer demand.
Employment Cost Index (ECI)
Payroll employment is a measure of the number of jobs at larger companies in more than 500 industries in all 50 U.S. states and 255 metropolitan areas. ECI counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation’s business and government establishments.
Measures total receipts of retail stores from samples representing all sizes and kinds of business in retail trade throughout the nation. It is the timeliest indicator of broad consumer spending patterns and is adjusted for normal seasonal variation, holidays, and trading-day differences.
Retail sales include durable and nondurable merchandise sold, and services and excise taxes incidental to the sale of merchandise. It doesn’t include sales taxes collected directly from the customer.
Measures the number of residential units on which construction is begun each month. A “start” refers to excavation of the foundation of a residential home.
Housing is usually one of the first sectors to react to interest rate changes. Significant reaction of start/permits to changing interest rates signals interest rates are nearing trough or peak. To analyze, focus on the percentage change in levels from the previous month. Report is released around the middle of the following month.