Leading indicators edge higher

Conference Board's index increased 0.1% in April, topping economists' forecast for an unchanged reading.

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By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- An indicator of the economy's future performance increased slightly in April, according to a report released Monday.

The index of leading U.S. economic indicators issued by The Conference Board, a business research group, rose 0.1% to 102 last month.

According to a consensus compiled by Briefing.com, economists had expected the index to be unchanged after being up 0.1%.

The modest increase in April sends signs that the economy is sputtering forward, if still sluggish. March was the first month that the index increased, following five consecutive monthly declines.

"We are keeping our head above water," said Tim Quinlan, economic analyst at Wachovia. "A few months ago, it seemed like we were on the edge of trouble. Today's report is consistent with a recent state of semi-positive news."

During the six-month span ending with April, the leading index decreased 1.2%.

In April, the positive contributors to the index were stock prices, interest rate spread, building permits, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance, vendor performance and manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials.

Consumer expectations, average weekly manufacturing hours, and manufacturers' new orders for nondefense capital goods kept the index in check. Real money supply held steady in April.

"We are not hanging our hat on a 0.1% gain and saying everything is going to be fine, but the fact that we are not in negative here is good," said Quinlan.

The index of leading indicators is designed to forecast turning points in the business cycle. To top of page

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