Bedel Barometer

Back in 2009, we identified key areas that have historically been strong indicators of the strength in the U.S. economy. The idea was to use these indicators to determine whether the economy was going to rebound or remain in crisis mode in the year ahead.

In the short run, the Bedel Barometer should be used as a measure of the overall health of the U.S. economy—not as a sign of the health of the stock market. In the long run, the health of the U.S. economy should have a significant impact on the performance of the stock market.

Here is how each indicator currently stacks up and its importance: 


Last updated May 2022
















Current Score


What's this?

The Bedel Barometer was developed in 2009 to provide a measure of the overall health of the U.S. economy. To do this, we identified 7 key areas that have historically been strong indicators as to the strength of our economy. Using a score of either positive, negative or neutral, we assign a value to each of these and are able to combine the results and reflect the overall measure that you see today.

How each indicator stacks up today

The Bedel Barometer offers a comprehensive measure of the overall health of the U.S. economy.

Rating: Neutral

Stock Market Performance

Why we watch it:

The stock market tends to be forward looking and it is a leading indicator of economic growth.

Recent Highlights:

Domestic and international equities continued their tough start to 2022. The S&P 500 was down -3.0% in February. Domestic mid cap equities decreased -0.7%, while small cap equities increased 1.1%. The S&P 500 is down -3.9% over the last three months and up 16.4% over the last twelve months.

The international index (MSCI ACWI ex-US) was down -2.0% in February. The index is down -1.7% over the last three months and down -0.4% over the last twelve months.

Global equities started the year with anxiety about impending rate hikes, but Russia invading Ukraine added another level of uncertainty.

Neutral Since January 2022

Rating: Neutral

Consumer Spending

Why we watch it:

Over 70% of the U.S. economy is based on personal consumption. A reduction in consumer spending will cause slower growth in the economy.

Recent Highlights:

Consumer spending increased 2.1% in January, above the consensus estimate and well above December’s revised reading of -0.8%. Consumer spending can be volatile from one month to the next.

The second estimate of Q4 2021 consumer spending recorded a solid 3.1% increase. This is a little below the first estimate of a 3.3% increase.

Personal income was unchanged in January.


Neutral Since April 2021

Rating: Positive

Manufacturing Activity

Why we watch it:

The health of the economy is dependent on the health of the manufacturing sector. Historically, it has been the path to development and an important driver of economic growth. Domestic manufacturing activity is tracked by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), which releases a monthly index while global activity is tracked by J.P.Morgan and IHS Market in association with ISM and IFPSM. The index monitors data like employment, production inventories, new orders and supplier deliveries. It is based on surveys of more than 300 manufacturing firms, and it’s considered an important economic measure. The index value ranges between 0 and 100. A value below 50 may indicate a slowdown in the economy, especially if the trend persists over several months. A value above 50 likely indicates a time of economic growth. Similarly, Global Manufacturing PMI is produced by IHS Markit in association with ISM and IFPSM. It is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to monthly questionnaires sent to purchasing managers in survey panels in over 40 countries, totaling around 13,500 companies. It has the same value ranges as the ISM manufacturing report.

Recent Highlights:

ISM manufacturing reported 58.6 in February, above January’s 57.6 reading. This is a respectable number and in line with recent months. New orders reported 61.7 in February, well above January’s 57.9 reading.

Global PMI posted a reading of 53.6 in February, a two month high. February saw 22 of the 25 nations for which data were available register growth.

Positive Since October 2020

Rating: Negative

Consumer Price Stability

Why we watch it:

Mild inflation is good for the economy, because it promotes consumption without destroying the value of people's savings. If you know something will be going up slightly in price down the road, you'll be more likely to purchase it now. If this effect is mild, it doesn't hurt savings rates very much. Deflation, however, punishes an economy because it hurts consumption. If you know something will be cheaper tomorrow or next year, you're more likely to wait until tomorrow to buy it. The Fed’s inflation target is 2 %.

Recent Highlights:

Headline CPI increased 0.6% in January. Over the last 12 months, CPI rose 7.5%—the fastest pace since February 1982. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, also increased 0.6% in January. Over the last 12 months, core CPI rose 6.0%

Negative Since: June 2021

Rating: Positive

Housing Market

Why we watch it:

The economy typically benefits directly and indirectly from increased housing activity. It is estimated that for every $100 in value resulting from housing construction, an extra $40-$80 is added to the economy due to housing-related spending.

Recent Highlights:

Total existing home sales increased 6.7% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.50 million units. Sales in total fell -2.3% from a year ago.

The median existing-home price in January was $350,300, up 15.4% from January 2021. This marks 119 straight months of year-over-year gains. This is the longest-running streak on record. Unsold inventory is at about a 1.6-month supply—an all-time low. A three to six-month supply is considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.

New home sales decreased -4.5% in January to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 801,000. The median sale price of new homes sold in January was $423,300. Unsold inventory is at about 6.1-month supply. Note that the new home sales report is typically very volatile and the data is frequently revised.

Positive Since September 2020

Rating: Negative


Why we watch it:

VIX is the symbol for the Chicago Board Options Exchange's volatility index. It’s a weighted mix of the prices for a blend of S&P 500 Index options, from which implied volatility is derived. In other words, it measures how much people are willing to pay to buy or sell the S&P 500. The VIX goes up when there’s turmoil in the market, and goes down when investors are content or at ease with the economic outlook.

We like to watch the VIX, because it measures the cost of buying insurance for stock protection (through options). When the cost of protection is high, volatility is usually high, and the potential for declining stock values is higher.

Recent Highlights:

The VIX started February around 24.6 and only seemed to increase from there due to geopolitical conflicts. The VIX ended the month at 30.2, close to the high for the month. The historical average of the VIX is about 19.2.

Neutral Since Dec 2021

Rating: Positive

TED Spread

Why we watch it:

The TED Spread is the banks’ cost of borrowing short-term money minus the Treasury’s cost of borrowing short-term money. The difference between the three-month LIBOR interest rate and the three-month Treasury Bill interest rate measures the degree of riskiness of the bank lending market.  When the spread is significant, banks worry about being repaid when loaning money to other banks, thereby creating uncertainty. This can cause slower growth in the economy.

Recent Highlights:

The current spread at the end of February was 0.14% (3-Month LIBOR 0.51% – 3-Month Treasury Bill 0.37%). Both indicators in the TED spread increased quite a bit from January. However, the spread saw only a slight increase from 0.12% last month. The current TED spread of 0.14% is below the historical average spread of about 0.57%.

Positive Since June 2020

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. As of March 15, 2022 the current score for the Bedel Barometer is +1.

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