Leading U.S. Indicators Up; Jobless Claims Ease

By Agence France-Presse The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators, a gauge of future economic activity, rose 0.4% in August, the fourth consecutive increase, the New York-based business group said Sept. 18. But the group said that while future indicators point upward, the so-called coincident index, which reflects the current state of the economy, was flat. "The economy is improving, although the road will likely remain bumpy," said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. "While the coincident index was flat in August, after three straight monthly increases, the continuing rise in the leading index suggests the coincident index should advance in the next few months." The overall index gained a revised 0.6% in July, 0.4% in June and 1.1% in May. Meanwhile. U.S. weekly jobless claims dipped 29,000 in the week to Sept. 12, to 399,000, the government reported. The improvement put the number of claims just below the 400,000 threshold economists say marks the difference between an expanding and declining labor market. The report was also better than expected on Wall Street, where analysts were expecting a figure of 410,000 new jobless claims. The four-week average for first-time claims for state unemployment benefits rose for a fourth straight week, climbing by 2,000 to 410,750. It is the highest reading since mid-July. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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