Gauge of US economy posts solid 0.8 percent gain

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — A gauge designed to predict the economy's future health posted a solid increase in September after no gain in the previous month.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators rose 0.8 percent last month following a flat reading in August which originally had been reported as a small 0.2 percent gain. It was the best showing since a 1.1 percent advance in July.

Economists expect that continuing strong gains in employment should boost incomes and help support solid economic growth in the United States in coming quarters despite a weaker outlook overseas.

"The financial markets are reflecting turmoil and unease, but the data on the leading indicators continue to suggest moderate growth in the short-term," said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein.

He said weak advances in the housing market remained a bigger risk to the economy's performance than the recent financial market gyrations.

The economy grew at a 4.6 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, a solid rebound after a sharp contraction caused by a harsh winter in the first three months of the year. Economists say the economy grew at a healthy pace of around 3 percent in the just-completed July-September quarter and will post a similar growth rate in the final three months of this year.

The leading index is composed of 10 forward-pointing indicators. Nine of the 10 indicators showed strength in September with the biggest positive contribution coming from a favorable spread of low interest rates. The only negative was average consumer expectations for business conditions.