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Stocks, housing boost economic outlook

Report: Conference Board index up for second straight month

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The Conference Board U.S. leading index in April grew for the second straight month as stocks and building permits posted gains. According to the group's report released Monday, stock prices, interest-rate spread and housing permits made large positive contributions to the index last month, pushing it up another 0.1 percent, despite sharp declines in average weekly manufacturing hours and consumer expectations. The leading index now stands at 102. In April, the six-month rate of decline in the leading index slowed to -1.2 percent (a -2.3 percent annual rate) from -2.4 percent (a -4.7 percent annual rate) between July 2007 and January 2008. After declining steadily since the middle of 2007, the leading index appears to have stabilized lately, increasing slightly in March and April, as the "weaknesses among the leading indicators have become somewhat less widespread in the last two months," the report stated. Meanwhile, real GDP, which measures the total value of goo...