Leading Indicators Advance 0.3%

By John S. McClenahen After a February pause, the Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators, a measure of how the U.S. economy is likely to perform during the next three to six months, increased 0.3% in March, right in line with economists' expectations. The leading index now stands at 115.3 (1996=100). The index showed no change in February and rose 0.4% in January. "The leading index has now increased by 4.4% from its most recent low in April 2003," noted the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, when it released March 2004 data on April 19. "Short of a terror attack, the picture right now is a lot more positives than negatives -- with the caveat that that is the average picture," states Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. "No doubt, there are pockets, regionally or industrial, where the picture isn't quite so bright. But the average is."

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