A key forecasting gauge of future U.S. economic activity fell for a fifth straight month in October, the Conference Board (search) said on Thursday.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of leading indicators (search) fell 0.3 percent in October to 115.1, a fifth straight monthly decline. The index fell by a matching 0.3 percent in both September and August. The September figure was downwardly revised from a previously reported drop of 0.1 percent.

"A fifth straight decline in the leading indicators is a clear signal that the economy is losing steam, and may start off 2005 with a relatively weak pace of economic activity," Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said in a statement.

Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters had expected a more modest decline in October of 0.1 percent.