Index of US economic health picks up

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:00am EST

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WASHINGTON Jan 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. economic recovery is broadening and could strengthen slightly in the near term, according to a private industry group's index of economic indicators released on Thursday.

The Conference Board's measure of leading indicators rose 1 percent in December, taking the index to a record high of 112.4. The December gain was bigger than the 0.6 percent increase that economists polled by Reuters had expected.

"All in all, the current behavior of the composite indexes and their components suggest that the economic expansion that began in mid-2009 will continue, and could even pick up slightly in the near term," the Conference Board wrote.

Six of the 10 leading indicators increased in December. Building permits and the interest rate spread were among the biggest advancers, more than offsetting the drag from a weak reading on supplier deliveries.

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