Leading economic indicator hints at slower growth

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:07am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A gauge of future U.S. economic activity fell slightly in November, suggesting a slowdown in growth in the near term.

The Conference Board said on Thursday its Leading Economic Index slipped 0.2 percent to 95.8 last month, after increasing 0.3 percent in October.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to fall 0.2 percent after two straight months of gains.

"The indicators reflect an economy that remains weak in the face of strong domestic and international headwinds as it faces the fiscal cliff," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

"Growth will likely be slow through the early months of 2013," he added.

The fiscal cliff refers to automatic government spending cuts and higher taxes that could suck about $600 billion from the economy early next year unless the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration can agree on a less drastic plan to cut the budget deficits.

Business confidence has taken a dive in recent months on fears of tighter fiscal policy.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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