Economic indicators for Baltimore and Maryland turned upward in July, the second of three months showing an improvement. It's an indication that the region may be headed for better economic times.
But economists are reluctant to make forecasts until the numbers -- called the index of leading economic indicators -- rise for three consecutive months. Preliminary economic figures for August -- the first to come in after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait -- already show some deterioration.
Still, said Dr. Michael Conte, director of the University of Baltimore's Center for Business and Economic Studies, the July upturns are a healthy sign.
"Because both the Maryland and Baltimore indexes rose in two of the past three months," he said, "the prognosis is good for an avoidance of recession, and maybe even positive economic growth in the coming six months.
"This is better than the current forecast for the United States economy as a whole. However, it requires three months of increases to make a firm forecast."
Both the Baltimore and Maryland indexes were led by improvement in new auto registrations, initial unemployment claims and the length of the manufacturing workweek. In Baltimore, new car registrations rose to 7,724 in July from 7,206 the month before, which was a two-year low. Maryland's registrations rose to 15,073 from 14,848 in June.
But August auto registrations fell 6.66 percent in Maryland and almost 57 percent in the Baltimore area. Preliminary figures show that both the workweek and average weekly manufacturing earnings declined slightly in the city and the state, Dr. Conte said.
Meanwhile, both the value and quantity of residential housing declined in July.