The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators for the U.S. edged down a tenth of a percent in July. The index now stands at 138.1 (1996=100).

The closely watched index, which suggests the economy's direction during the next three to six months, has fallen for four of the past six months. The cooling U.S. housing sector has been a major factor, indicates the New York-based business research group.

The Conference Board data are consistent with U.S. Commerce Department data showing that inflation-adjusted GDP growth for the U.S. declined from an annual rate of 5.6% in the first quarter of 2006 to an annual rate of 2.5% in the second quarter.

"The behavior of the leading index so far suggests that slow to moderate economic growth should continue in the second half of the year," says the Conference Board.