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December indicators rise

2d consecutive monthly increase points to growth

NEW YORK -- A closely watched measure of future economic activity rose for a second consecutive month in December, pointing to sustained, gradual growth.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said yesterday that its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.2 percent last month, following a revised gain of 0.3 percent in November. The increase, which was in line with economists’ forecasts, pushed the index to 115.4, still below its high of 116.5 in May.

The gains in the index followed five months of declines. The index is intended to predict economic activity over the coming three to six months.

Four of the ten indicators that make up the index rose in December, including the index of consumer expectations, stock prices, real money supply, and average weekly first-time claims for unemployment benefits.

The declining indicators included vendor performance, interest rate spread, manufacturers’ new orders for nondefense capital goods, building permits, and new orders for consumer goods and materials.Despite the good economic news, the markets were rocked by disappointing earnings among technology companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 68.50, or 0.65 percent, to 10,471.47.

Broader stock indicators also lost ground. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 9.22, or 0.78 percent, at 1,175.41, and the Nasdaq Composite index dropped 27.71, or 1.34 percent, to 2,045.88.

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