ByJohn S. McClenahen For the first time in six months, the Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators for the U.S. rose in November. The increase was 0.2% and brings the leading index to 115.2 (1996=100), the New York-based business research group reported on Dec. 20. The leading index generally foreshadows economy activity by three to six months. "It is too early to conclude that the recent weakness in the leading index was only a pause in [a] rising trend, but to date the decline was large enough and did not persist for long enough to signal an end to the current economic expansion," the Conference Board said. "The current behavior of the leading index is consistent with the economy continuing to expand in the near term, but more slowly than its long-term trend rate." The inflation-adjusted long-term annual growth rate of the U.S. economy is about 3.5%.