Latest Iowa economic indicators cautiously positive

Taxable diesel fuel consumption drops

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All of those fiscal cliff worries haven't turned Iowa's economic outlook negative, according to two Iowa economic indicators released Monday.

The State of Iowa's Iowa Leading Indicators Index for October of 2012 rose to 62 from 61 one quarter earlier. The indicator is used by the Iowa Department of Revenue to forecast future state tax collections. It is now at the same level as in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The Iowa Business Council's quarterly Economic Outlook Survey Index for the fourth quarter of 2012 rose to 62, one point higher than three months earlier, and the same as one year ago. Any survey result above 50 is considered positive.

The survey was based on the responses of 22 of the corporate members of the business council, which are some of Iowa's largest private and public employers.

"Questions persist about the economy and the federal government's debt and budget issues, but overall Iowa's business leaders are maintaining a cautiously positive outlook for the first half of the new year," said Stan Askren, the HNI Corporation chairman, president and CEO who is chair of the Iowa Business Council for 2012.

Executives' optimism about sales and capital spending in the upcoming quarter were both up one point from last quarter, but their outlook on employment was exactly the same. Eighteen percent of employers expected their employment needs to decrease, while 36 percent expected no change in employment, and 45 percent expect higher employment.

Improvement in the number of residential building permits was the largest positive contributor to the Iowa Leading Indicators Index for the fourth consecutive month. The number of residential building permits issued in September, at 1,163, was up 77 percent from October 2011.

The largest negative contributor to the index was diesel fuel consumption. Taxable diesel fuel consumption in Iowa during October totaled just over 55.5 million gallons, down 1.3 million gallons from October 2011's level.

All but one of the index components improved during September. The gains in residential building permits all of the weakness in the five other index components.

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