NEW YORK (AP) _ A closely watched gauge of future economic activity declined slightly in February following a sharp rise in January, a private research group said Monday.
The Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.2 percent in February, following a 0.5 percent rise in January.
Economists on Wall Street had expected the index to have declined 0.3 percent in February.
The Conference Board had initially reported a 1.1 percent jump in its January index of leading indicators. This was revised down by over half in the latest report.
The Conference Board said its coincident index, a measure of the current economy, rose 0.3 percent in February, following no change in January and a 0.4 percent increase in December.
In the latest report, the largest negative components were consumer expectations, building permits and stock prices. The postive components included manufacturers' new orders for non-defense capital goods and orders for consumer goods and materials.
``Essentially the story is we have got moderate growth through the first quarter. We may tick up in the second quarter and we may tick down in the third quarter,'' Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board told The Associated Press. ``Growth is going to be a little slower second half of the year.''