The list of Important Economic Data -Learning Center-

General information regarding major economic indicators

When focusing exclusively on the impact that economic indicators have on price action in a particular market, the foreign exchange markets are the most challenging, and therefore, have greatest potential for profits of any market. Obviously, factors other than economic indicators move prices and as such make other markets more or less potentially profitable.
But since a currency is a proxy for the country it represents, the economic health of that country is priced into the currency.

One very important way to measure the health of an economy is through economic indicators. The challenge comes in diligently keeping track of the nuts and bolts of each country’s particular economic information package. Here are a few general comments about economic indicators and some of the more closely watched data.

Most economic indicators can be divided into leading and lagging indicators

  • Leading indicators are economic factors that change before the economy starts to follow a particular pattern or trend. Leading indicators are used to predict changes in the economy.
  • Lagging Indicators are economic factors that change after the economy has already begun to follow a particular pattern or trend.

Major Indicators

The 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.

Industrial Production

It is a chain-weighted measure of the change in the production of the nation’s factories, mines and utilities as well as a measure of their industrial capacity and of how many available resources among factories, utilities and mines are being used (commonly known as capacity utilization). The manufacturing sector accounts for one-quarter of the economy. The capacity utilization rate provides an estimate of how much factory capacity is in use.

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, constructed from data on new orders, production, supplier delivery times, backlogs, inventories, prices, employment, export orders, and import orders. It is divided into manufacturing and non-manufacturing sub-indices.

Producer Price Index (PPI)

The Producer Price Index (PPI) is a measure of price changes in the manufacturing sector. It measures average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers in the manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and electric utility industries for their output. The PPIs most often used for economic analysis are those for finished goods, intermediate goods, and crude goods.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average price level paid by urban consumers (80% of population) 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

Durable Goods Orders measures new orders placed with domestic manufacturers for immediate and future delivery of factory hard goods. A durable good is defined as a good that lasts an extended period of time (over three years) during which its services are extended.

Employment Cost Index (ECI)

Payroll employment is a measure of the number of jobs in more than 500 industries in all states and 255 metropolitan areas. The employment estimates are based on a survey of larger businesses and counts the number of paid employees working part-time or full-time in the nation’s business and government establishments.

Retail Sales

The retail sales report is a measure of the 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. Excluded are sales taxes collected directly from the customer.

Housing Starts

The Housing Starts report measures the number of residential units on which construction is begun each month. A start in construction is defined as the beginning of excavation of the foundation for the building and is comprised primarily of residential housing. Housing is very interest rate sensitive and is one of the first sectors to react to changes in interest rates. 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.

How Forex Prices and Economic Data are related?-Learning Center-

Understand what particular aspect of the economy is being revealed in the data. For example, you should know which indicators measure the growth of the economy (GDP) vs. those that measure inflation (PPI, CPI) or employment (non-farm payrolls). After you follow the data for a while, you’ll become very familiar with the nuances of each economic indicator and what part of the economy they are measuring.

Not all economic indicators are created equal. Well, they might’ve been created with equal importance but along the way, some have acquired much greater potential to move the markets than others. Market participants will place higher regard on one stat vs. another depending on the state of the economy.

Know which indicators the markets are keying on. For example, if prices (inflation) are not a crucial issue for a particular country, inflation data will probably not be as keenly anticipated or reacted to by the markets. On the other hand, if economic growth is a vexing problem, changes in employment data or GDP will be eagerly anticipated and could precipitate tremendous volatility following their release.

The data itself is not as important as whether or not it falls within market expectations. Besides knowing when all the data will hit the wires, it is vitally important that you know what economists and other market pundits are forecasting for each indicator. For example, knowing the economic consequences of an unexpected monthly rise of 0.3% in the producer price index (PPI) is not nearly as vital to your short-term trading decisions as it is to know that this month the market was looking for PPI to fall by 0.1%. As mentioned, you should know that PPI measures prices and that an unexpected rise could be a sign of inflation. But analyzing the longer-term ramifications of this unexpected monthly rise in prices can wait until after you’ve taken advantage of the trading opportunities presented by the data. Once again, market expectations for all economic releases are published on various sources on the Web and you should post these expectations on your calendar along with the release date of the indicator.

Don’t get caught up in the headlines. Part of getting a handle on what the market is forecasting for various economic indicators is knowing the key aspects of each indicator. While your macroeconomics professor might have drilled the significance of the unemployment rate into your head, even junior traders can tell you that the headline figure is for amateurs and that the most closely watched detail in the payroll data is the non-farm payrolls figure. Other economic indicators are similar in that the headline figure is not nearly as closely watched as the finer points of the data. PPI for example, measures changes in producer prices. But the stat most closely watched by the markets is PPI, ex-food and energy. Traders know that the food and energy component of the data is much too volatile and subject to revisions on a month-to-month basis to provide an accurate reading on the changes in producer prices.

Speaking of revisions, don’t be too quick to pull that trigger should a particular economic indicator fall outside of market expectations. Contained in each new economic indicator released to the public are revisions to previously released data. For example, if durable goods should rise by 0.5% in the current month, while the market is anticipating them to fall, the unexpected rise could be the result of a downward revision to the prior month. Look at revisions to older data because in this case, the previous month’s durable goods figure might’ve been originally reported as a rise of 0.5% but now, along with the new figures, is being revised lower to say a rise of only 0.1% Therefore, the unexpected rise in the current month is likely the result of a downward revision to the previous month’s data.

Don’t forget that there are two sides to a trade in the foreign exchange market. So, while you might have a great handle on the complete package of economic indicators published in the United States or Europe, most other countries also publish similar economic data. The important thing to remember here is that not all countries are as efficient as the G7 in releasing this information. Once again, if you are going to trade the currency of a particular country, you need to find out the particulars about their economic indicators. As mentioned above, not all of these indicators carry the same weight in the markets and not all of them are as accurate as others. Do your homework and you won’t be caught off guard.