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Economy up in latest index

U.S. leading index increases 0.5% in November

The U.S. Leading Index, a key barometer of economic conditions, increased 0.5 percent in November, following a large gain in October, The Conference Board reported Thursday. The leading index now stands at 138.8 (1996=100). Based on revised data, the index increased 1 percent in October and decreased 0.7 percent in September. During the six-month span through November, the leading index increased 1.7 percent, with eight out of 10 components advancing, according to The Conference Board, a nonprofit research and business group. With November's increase, the six-month growth rate of the leading index picked up to about a 3.4 percent annual rate, up from an average of about 1.9 percent (annual rate) in the first half of 2005, and strength among the leading indicators has been widespread since August. The largest contributor to November's gain was initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), which returned to levels seen before the hurricanes hit the gulf region, The Conference...