U.S. leading economic indicators extend winning streak

The numbers: The Conference Board , following a 0.8% gain in January and a 0.7% rise in December.

What happened: The index rose for the fifth straight month, and eight of the 10 indicators that make up the leading index advanced. The biggest help came from average weekly manufacturing hours. Building permits and stock prices were the only drags.

In the six months ending February, the leading index has climbed 4%, faster than the 2.4% growth during the prior six months.

The big picture: The gains suggest an economy with real momentum. Job market data continue to be strong, and consumer and business confidence are, for the most part, robust.

What they’re saying: “The LEI points to robust economic growth throughout 2018. Its six-month growth rate has not been this high since the first quarter of 2011,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles and growth research at The Conference Board.

Market reaction: Haunted by trade fears as well concerns over the Federal Reserve’s outlook, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  was hit by around 250 points, and the release of the leading economic index did little to turn around sentiment.