Leading Indicators Rise in November

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators (search), a widely watched gauge of future economic activity, rose in November, reversing a five month trend, a private research group reported Monday.

The index rose 0.2 percent in November — slightly better than economists had been expecting — following declines of 0.4 percent in October and 0.2 percent in September, the Conference Board (search) reported. The indicator, which is intended to predict economic activity over the next three to six months, now stands at 115.2 versus its all-time high of 116.5 in May.

The research group said it does not believe the index fell far enough or long enough to mark the end of the economy's expansion.

The index is calculated by combining a number of factors believed to be good indicators of the direction of the economy over the next three to six months, such as manufacturing, interest rates, consumer expectations, stock prices and money supply.

"In terms of both duration and degree, the indicators suggest an economy losing forward momentum. But even if economic performance in early 2005 proves sluggish, conditions could brighten by spring," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the New York-based research group.

Six of the ten indicators that make up the index climbed in November, including stock prices, consumer expectations and manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials. Declining indicators included vendor performance, average weekly manufacturing hours and building permits.