Leading economic indicators rise in August, fourth consecutive month of increases

Thursday, September 18th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A closely watched gauge of future economic activity rose in August for the fourth consecutive month, even as a measure of the current business climate stalled.

The Conference Board reported Thursday that its Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.4 percent in August to 113.3, in line with analysts' expectations. The rise in the August reading followed a revised 0.6 percent increase in July.

But the improvement in the economic outlook was tempered by stagnation in the board's reading of the current business climate.

``The economy is improving, although the road will remain bumpy,'' board economist Ken Goldstein said. ``With export growth still months away, the growth burden remains on consumer spending and business investment.''

The leading index measures where the overall U.S. economy is headed in the next three to six months. It stood at 100 in 1996, its base year.

Four of the 10 components of the leading index improved in August, including the interest rate spread, vendor performance, real money supply and building permits.

The coincident index, which measures current economic conditions, was flat in August. The lagging index was also unchanged.

The Conference Board's reading on the economy was supported by a Labor Department report Thursday that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits declined last week after rising in three previous weeks.

The government said new claims for jobless benefits fell last week by a seasonally adjusted 29,000 to 399,000. It was the first time since the week ending Aug. 23 that claims dipped below the 400,000 mark.