Gain in U.S. Leading Index Points to Second-Quarter Rebound

The index of U.S. leading indicators rose in April for the fourth straight month, showing the economy will strengthen after a slowdown earlier this year.

The Conference Board’s index, a gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months, rose 0.4 percent after a revised

1.0 percent gain in March that was larger than previously reported, the New York-based group said today. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an advance of 0.4 percent.

The gain indicates the first-quarter slowdown was more the result of harsh weather than underlying weakness in the expansion. Faster job growth that leads to a pickup in wages would help provide a further boost to consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

“It’s a slow, still-uneven recovery, but still modest growth,” Kenneth Kim, an economist at Stone & McCarthy Research in Princeton, New Jersey, said before the report. “It’s kind of idling gains, not very strong.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gains of 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent. The revised gain for March matched September’s reading as the biggest advance since March 2011.

Other reports today showed that sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose in April for the first time this year and more Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week. Stocks were higher, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rising 0.2 percent to 1,891.33 as of 10:17 a.m. in New York.

Five of the 10 indicators in the Conference Board’s leading index contributed to the increase.

Coincident Indicators

The index of coincident indicators, a gauge of current economic activity, rose 0.1 percent in April after a 0.3 percent gain the prior month.

The coincident index tracks payrolls, incomes, sales and production, measures used by the National Bureau of Economic Research to determine the beginning and end of U.S. recessions.

“Despite a brutal winter which brought the economy to a halt, the overall trend in the leading economic index has remained positive,” said Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board. “If consumers continue to spend, and businesses pick up the pace of investment, the industrial core of the economy will benefit and GDP growth could move closer towards the 3 percent range.”

A measure of lagging indicators increased 0.2 percent after a 0.7 percent advance the previous month.

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