Industry News

Economic outlook brightens

Better job, stock news sends leading index higher in Sept.

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A key barometer of future economic conditions picked up steam in September, The Conference Board reported this week. The U.S. leading index increased 0.3 percent last month to 137.9, with seven of 10 indicators advancing. Although building permits and interest-rate spread continued to drag the index, improving vendor performance, fewer jobless claims and rising stock prices all pushed the index higher in September. As a result, the leading index is now at the same level as in March 2007. The Conference Board reported that the leading index has been essentially flat throughout 2007, and the six-month diffusion index suggests that the strengths among the leading indicators continue to be only slightly more widespread than weaknesses in recent months. At the same time, real GDP, which measures the total value of goods and services produced by the United States in a given period, grew at a 2.2 percent average annual rate in the first half of the year, only slightly up from the 1.6 percent...