There are probably more economic indicators around than any single person can make use of. Lots of figures and indices may serve as an early sign for some potential future trends in specific industries or whole economies.
I have some rather uncommon personal favorites. The first two are not so much early indicators but quite reliable signs of what is going on:
- The number of pages of the Saturday job section of FAZ (a leading German newspaper – take any other leading newspaper of your country instead): Last Saturday it was 67 pages, which is – as far as I remember – the highest number over the last couple of months. As it happens, the German economy finally seems to enjoy a new boom after long years of rather low economic growth. I never tried it but I guess this indicator can be fine-tuned for industries or regions as needed. All you need is a specified search for a leading job website.
- The second indicator is quite similar, although a bit more vague. I have a subscription of the Manager Magazin, a monthly business magazine in Germany. To my feeling, the volume of each issue is directly equivalent to the state of the economy as follows: positive conditions and outlook of the economy -> more optimistic companies, increasing their advertising budgets -> rising number of print ads -> more pages in the magazine and higher advertising revenues -> more funds for available for editorial content -> even more pages. Again, this indicator probably works for industry magazines and the like too.
- The last indicator is more specific. When I worked in the bearing industry (which is a fairly early stage of the industrial value chain) we were desperately looking for a industry specific early indicator. During my research I read somewhere, that the stock quotes of the bearing industry leader SKF are generally considered to be an early indicator for the machine building and engineering industries.
The SKF quote showed a fairly steady rise over the last six months.
Take all these signs together and even I start to get optimistic about the economy.