Although a key economic indicator improved in May on brighter employment and housing news, don’t expect a boom anytime soon, The Conference Board reported today.

The U.S. leading index, a gauge of future economic conditions, rose 0.3 percent last month to 138, with five of the 10 leading indicators advancing. Declines in jobless claims made the largest positive impact on the leading index in May, followed by rising stock prices and building permits, and consumer expectations. The index is now 0.3 percent above its level a year ago, but hasn’t moved very far since early last year.

Based on revised data, the index sank 0.3 percent in April and climbed 0.6 percent in March.

The Conference Board said in a statement that “the recent performance of the leading index has been mixed with increases offsetting decreases and the number of components rising roughly equaling the number falling. The current behavior of the composite indexes suggests that economic growth is likely to continue, albeit at a slow pace, in the near term.”

More weakness in real GDP, or gross domestic product, which measures the total value of goods and services produced by the Unites States, put a damper on the economic outlook, as the figure was revised downward in the first quarter to a 0.6 annual rate from a 1.3 percent annual rate reported last month. By comparison, GDP in the fourth quarter of 2006 registered a 2.5 percent annual rate.

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