By John S. McClenahen Just about the time people were beginning to accept the prospect of a prolonged and not terribly impressive U.S. economic recovery from the 2001 recession, along comes the possibility that the world's largest economy could contract again. For the fourth consecutive month, the index of leading economic indicators -- data that suggest what the U.S. economy is likely to be like in six months -- fell in September. The leading index fell 0.2% last month, twice the 0.1% decline it recorded in August, reports the New York-based Conference Board, a business research group. The leading index now stands at 111.6 (1996=100). Five of the 10 indicators that constitute the index -- including initial claims for unemployment insurance and manufacturers' new orders for non-defense capital goods -- declined in September. However, the Conference Board's index of "coincident" economic indicators argues against a "double-dip" U.S. recession. Holding steady at 115.1 (1996=100), the index continues to show "a weak economic recovery," says the Conference Board.