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Leading Indicators Point To Continued Recovery

A forecast of U.S. economic activity rose for the eighth straight month in November, a private research group said, signaling the economic rebound will continue next year.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.9 percent last month, up from 0.3 percent in October.

The latest reading beat the 0.7 percent rise that economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected.

Separately Thursday, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its index of factories in the Mid-Atlantic region rose to 20.4 — a 4 1/2 year high — from 16.7 in November, Reuters reported. The closely watched index is one of the first indicators of the health of the U.S. manufacturing sector.

The Conference Board said six of the 10 indicators it uses for the LEI index increased last month.

Improvements in financial conditions, housing permits and the labor market boosted the index last month, said Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim.

A separate measurement of the growth rate forecast over the past six months has slowed, however. In the half-year through November, the index grew at a 4.7 percent pace, down from the 5.9 percent pace in the half-year through September and the 5.2 percent pace through October.

Economists are worried about whether economic growth in 2010 will match that of the second half of this year with unemployment high, credit still tight and the effects of government stimulus programs ending.

The economy grew at a 2.8 percent pace in the third quarter. Many economists say gross domestic product will grow between 3 and 4 percent for the current quarter.

The Conference Board forecasts economic activity by measuring claims for unemployment aid, stock prices, consumer expectations, building permits for private homes, the money supply and other data.

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