Leading indicators rise for 8th straight month

AP News
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Posted: Dec 17, 2009 11:14 AM

A forecast of U.S. economic activity rose for the eighth straight month in November, a private research group said, signaling the economic rebound will continue next year.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.9 percent last month, up from 0.3 percent in October.

The latest reading beat the 0.7 percent increase that economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected.

"I wouldn't say that it's all clear, but it is another piece of good news," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

The Conference Board said six of the 10 indicators it uses for the index increased last month.

Improvements in financial conditions, building permits for homes and the labor market boosted the index last month, said Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim.

The biggest boost to the index came from a difference in expected long- and short-term interest rates. The board said stock prices and the money supply, two other components of the index, also improved.

"The employment part of it is still weighing on everyone's mind even though the number of job losses is getting smaller," Lee said. "We might see some pullback."

The negative components included supplier deliveries by vendors, consumer expectations, and the estimated factory orders for capital goods. Projected factory orders for consumer goods were steady.

A separate measurement of the growth rate forecast over the past six months has slowed, however. In the half-year through November, the index grew at a 4.7 percent pace, down from the 5.9 percent pace in the half-year through September and the 5.2 percent pace through October.

Economists are worried about whether economic growth in 2010 will match that of the second half of this year with unemployment high, credit still tight and the effects of government stimulus programs ending.

The economy grew at a 2.8 percent pace in the third quarter. Many economists say gross domestic product will grow between 3 and 4 percent for the current quarter.

The Conference Board forecasts economic activity by measuring claims for unemployment aid, stock prices, consumer expectations, building permits for private homes, the money supply and other data.