Leading Indicators Hint at Continuing Economic Growth

A gauge of future economic activity advanced 0.1 percent in November, suggesting that the U.S. economy will continue to expand modestly in coming months, an industry-backed research group said Thursday.

The Conference Board, based in New York, said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators edged up to 138.2 last month following a revised increase of 0.1 percent to 138.1 in October and 0.4 percent to 138.0 in September.

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The November performance was in line with analysts' expectations.

"The recent behavior of the leading index so far still suggests that slow economic growth is likely to continue in the near term," the Conference Board said.

The index is closely watched because it is designed to predict economic activity in the next three to six months.

In Washington, the Commerce Department reported that the nation's economic growth slowed to a 2 percent annual pace in July-September period, slower than the 2.2 percent earlier estimated.

The economy has been losing momentum as the housing sector has weakened. In the first three months of this year, the economy grew at a rapid 5.6 percent pace, the strongest spurt in 2 1/2 years, but in the second quarter growth slowed to 2.6 percent.

Many economists believe the economy may have weakened further in the October-December period.

In other Washington news, the number of newly laid-off workers signing up for unemployment benefits rose by 9,000 to 315,000 last week, the Labor Department reported. That was in line with economists' projections.

The stock market, reacting to some positive news on the corporate earnings front, mostly ignored the reports.

In early trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.09, or 0.06 percent, to 12,471.96.

Broader stock indicators were also higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 1.90, or 0.13 percent, to 1,425.43, and the Nasdaq composite index increased 3.24, or 0.13 percent, to 2,430.85.

The Conference Board said four of the 10 components that make up the leading index increased in November: money supply, vendor performance, manufacturers' new orders for nondefense capital goods, and stock prices. Manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials held steady. Negative contributors were unemployment insurance claims, building permits, the interest rate spread, manufacturing hours, and the index of consumer expectations.

The coincident index, which measures current activity, advanced 0.2 percent to 124.0 in November after rising 0.2 percent in October to 123.8. The lagging index was up 0.5 percent to 124.9 last month after advancing 0.2 percent in October to 124.3.

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