Book TV After Words: Zachary Karabell, "The Leading Indicators."

There are a set of five economic indicators that have been guiding U.S. economic policy for decades, but most are not understood by the average citizen and, Mr. Karabell argues, are not as relevant today as when they were created. Gross national product, balance of trade, unemployment, inflation and consumer confidence should no longer be the primary basis for business plans or monetary policy, he says, as the technology revolution has made considerably more data available. He talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Kimberly Strassel.

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The Leading Indicators

n today's uncertain economy, both the public and the world's leaders rely heavily on certain indicators to tell us how we are doing. Gross national product, balance of trade, unemployment figures, inflation, and the consumer price index determine whether we feel optimistic or pessimistic about our future and dictate whether businesses hire or hunker down, governments spend trillions or try to reduce debt, and individuals buy a car, get a mortgage, or look for a job. Yet few of us know where these numbers come from, what they mean, or why they rule our world.

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