ByJohn S. McClenahen For the fifth consecutive month, Mexico's index of leading economic indicators rose in February, the most recent month for which data are available, reports the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group. The increase was 0.2%, and the leading index now stands at 107.4 (1990=100). The latest index gain is smaller than January's 0.6% but double the 0.1% recorded in December 2003. "While real GDP has been extremely volatile from quarter to quarter, the average growth rate has been rising since the second half of 2002 -- to a 2.8% annual rate in the second half of 2003. This has been consistent with the improving growth rate of the leading index, which is still signaling some further improvement in the rate of economic growth in the near term," says the Conference Board.