Iowa economic activity gained some steam in March, with the state's index of leading indicators increasing to 108 from 107.7, the Iowa Department of Revenue said.

 

Six of the eight components of the index experienced gains. Just three of the components had positive changes in February. The six-month annualized change in the index was positive for the 11th consecutive month.

 

The top positive indicators were for agriculture futures profits, which was positive for the first time in 28 months, and the stock market index.

 

The agriculture index was boosted by a virus that is killing piglets across the country, which is lowering supply and has boosted futures contract hog prices by 49.5 percent. In addition, production costs for hogs and cattle dropped due to a decline in grain prices.

 

Iowa stocks rebounded, with 32 of 33 stocks experiencing gains in March, and all of the 11 financial sector company stocks rising in price.

 

Other positive contributors were diesel fuel consumption, average weekly manufacturing hours, residential building permits and the yield spread.

 

On the downside, average weekly unemployment claims increased nearly 5 percent from March 2013, and the new orders index dropped over the year to 69.4 from 69.5. However, the new orders index did experience a month-to-month gain in March, and indications are that the manufacturing sector will continue to expand.

 

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