Leading economic indicators point to quicker growth

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:03am EST

A flag is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

A flag is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York, January 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A gauge of future U.S. economic activity rose in December, pointing to an improvement in growth despite an ongoing political fight in Washington over fiscal policy.

The private Conference Board said on Thursday its Leading Economic Index gained 0.5 percent to 93.9 last month, after being unchanged in November.

A drop in new claims for jobless benefits helped drive the gain, as did an increase in new building permits.

"A pickup in domestic growth is now more likely," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to gain 0.3 percent.

The Conference Board had previously said its leading index fell 0.2 percent in November, but on Thursday it revised the reading.

Many economists have worried that a debate in Washington over taxes and government spending - which was particularly raucous in December - would lead businesses and consumers to hold back on spending, hurting the economy.

The Conference Board's index, however, suggested the economy was picking up speed despite ongoing uncertainty over fiscal policy.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

Recommended Newsletters

Reuters U.S. Top News
A quick-fix on the day's news published with Reuters videos and award-winning news photography and delivered at your choice of one of four times during the day.
Reuters Deals Today
The latest Reuters articles on M&A, IPOs, private equity, hedge funds and regulatory updates delivered to your inbox each day.
Reuters Technology Report
Your daily briefing on the latest tech developments from around the world from Reuters expert tech correspondents.