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Conference Board Economic Indicators Rise in December

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased 1 percent in December to 112.4, following a 1.1 percent increase in November, and a 0.4 percent increase in October. The Coincident Economic Index (CEI) increased 0.2 percent, and the Lagging Economic Index (LAG) increased 0.3 percent.

"While the LEI points to an economic expansion that is gaining further traction, its components still suggest the expansion path may be uneven," said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at The Conference Board. "December's gain was led by housing permits, the interest rate spread, initial claims for unemployment insurance and consumer expectations. The large increases in December and November show that, after a brief pause in the second quarter of 2010, the LEI is resuming the upward trend that began in March 2009."

The Conference Board LEI for the U.S. now stands at 112.4 (2004=100).

The six-month change in the index increased to 3.3 percent (a 6.7 percent annual rate) in the period through December 2010, from 2.4 percent (5 percent annual rate) for the previous six months.

The Conference Board CEI for the U.S., a measure of current economic activity, continued to increase in December, with all its components advancing. The CEI currently stands at 101.9 (2004=100). The six-month change in the index stands at 0.7 percent (a 1.4 percent annual rate) in the period through December 2010, down from 1.4 percent (a 2.8 percent annual rate) for the previous six months.

In December, the CEI increased less than the lagging economic index, and the coincident-to-lagging ratio fell slightly, as a result. Meanwhile, real GDP grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2010, following an increase of 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter.

The Conference Board LAG for the U.S. stands at 108.4 (2004=100) in December, with two of the seven components advancing.

"The four-month rise suggests the economy now has some wind in its sails; however, it still faces some strong headwinds in the medium-term," says Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board. "Overall economic activity is likely to continue to gain momentum in 2011."

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