The Index of Leading Economic Indicators (search), a widely-watched barometer of future economic activity, edged lower in September for the fourth month in a row, indicating a slowing in economic growth, a private research group reported Thursday.

The Conference Board (search) said that its indicator of upcoming activity in the economy fell 0.1 percent last month, following declines of 0.3 percent in August and 0.3 percent in July.

The group said that while the weakness in the economy has become more widespread over the last several months, the declines in the indicator are not yet large enough nor have they lasted long enough to suggest that the current economic expansion is ending.

The index is closely followed because it is designed to forecast the economy's health over the coming three to six months.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein called the September decline a "clear signal that the economy is losing momentum heading into 2005."