Books in Brief

Like the guy who never stopped wearing narrow ties, the Economic Cycle Research Institute can justify a certain smugness now that business cycles are back in fashion.

The institute, which sells its macroeconomic reports to business clients, called the last two recessions and the current weak recovery months ahead of the economic pack. It did so by recognizing that the U.S. economy in the 1990s actually followed fairly normal dynamics. The supposed new economy, the authors argue, resulted more from a balanced combination of growth and contraction overseas than from an extraordinary rise in domestic productivity.

The book's second half instructs readers in using the institute's publicly available index of leading economic indicators to make business and personal decisions, such as whether the time is ripe to merge with IBM or open a second Laundromat. But while the index is important, it's hardly a simple determinant - the authors concede that interpreting it requires informed judgment.