U.S. Leading Economic Index Rises For Sixth Straight Month In March

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Pointing to a more positive outlook, the Conference Board's leading economic index for the U.S. increased for the sixth consecutive month in March, according to a report released on Thursday.

The report showed that the leading economic index rose by 0.3 percent in March following a 0.7 percent increase in February and a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists had been expecting the index to increase by 0.2 percent.

"Despite relatively weak data on jobs, home building and output in the past month or two, the indicators signal continued economic momentum," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board. "We expect a gradual improvement in growth past the summer months."

The continued increase by the leading economic index reflected positive contributions from seven of the ten indicators that make up the index.

The positive contributors include the interest rate spread, building permits, stock prices, the leading credit index, and average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance.

Meanwhile, negative contributions from average weekly manufacturing hours, average consumer expectations for business conditions and the Institute for Supply Management's new orders index limited the upside for the index.

The report also showed that the coincident economic index increased by 0.2 percent in March, matching the increase seen in the previous month.

Positive contributions by manufacturing and trade sales, non-farm payroll employment, and personal income less transfer payments contributed to the increase by the coincident index, while industrial production held steady.

The Conference Board said that its lagging economic index also rose by 0.3 percent in March following a 0.1 percent increase in February.

The increase by the lagging index reflected positive contributions from the average duration of unemployment, the ratio of consumer installment credit to personal income, the change in unit labor costs and the ratio of manufacturing and trade inventories to sales.

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