WRAPUP 2-US activity index gains, Texas manufacturing dips

(Updates with Lowe’s Cos results, background)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, Feb 22 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. economic activity rose
sharply in January, further evidence the recovery is gaining
ground, but manufacturing in Texas slipped in February.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Monday said its
gauge of the national economy rose to +0.02 from -0.58 in
December, the second time in three months it was positive. For
details see [ID:nNLLMDE60R].

Also on Monday, however, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
said its Texas monthly manufacturing index slumped to -0.1 in
February from 8.3 in January. [ID:nWAT014142]

The Chicago Fed data is encouraging news on the economy,
said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson
Illington Advisors, in Albany, New York.

“If you couple that with other indicators, the evidence is
very compelling the recession is over,” he said.

Last week, the Conference Board, a private research group,
said its index of leading indicators rose for the 10th month to
a record high in January, and a Philadelphia Fed survey showed
factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region grew more than
expected in February.

Also, the Federal Reserve last week raised the discount
rate, which it charges for emergency lending to banks, sparking
worries on Wall Street that it was the first move by the Fed —
the U.S. central bank — to withdraw an easy money policy that
has helped boost stocks.

On Monday, however, San Francisco Fed President Janet
Yellen, speaking in San Diego, said the U.S. economy still
needs ultra-low interest rates since inflation is “undesirably
low,” and growth is expected to be sluggish for several years.
[ID:nN22193294]

The Chicago national activity index’s three-month moving
average increased to -0.16 in January from -0.47 in December,
for its highest since July 2007.

The Chicago Fed said the three-month moving average
suggests that, “consistent with the early stages of a recovery
following a recession, growth in national economic activity is
beginning to near its historical trend.”

If the three-month value moves above -0.70 following a
period of economic contraction, there is an increasing
likelihood a recession has ended, it said.

The monthly activity index from the Chicago Fed was
consistently negative from June 2007 through October 2009.

In a potential sign of an improvement in consumer spending,
home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos (LOW.N: ) reported
stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings and its chief
executive said the results show the worst of the economic cycle
is over.

The stock dipped 0.3 percent to end at $23.07, however,
with the company forecasting current-quarter profit (Read more your timing to make a profit.) below Wall
Street estimates and the broader stock market down slightly.
The benchmark Standard & Poor’s index (.SPX: ) ended down 0.1
percent.

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(Additional reporting by Ann Saphir and Dhanya Skariachan;
Editing by Andrew Hay)

WRAPUP 2-US activity index gains, Texas manufacturing dips