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Leading indicators rise 0.3 pct in January

NEW YORK — A forecast of future economic activity rose for a 10th straight month in January, but the pace of growth is slowing.

The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.3 percent last month, according to Thursday's report from the Conference Board, a private research group. That's weaker than a 1.2 percent rise in December and a 1.1 percent rise in November.

Its also was short of the 0.5 percent gain that economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected.

The index has risen for nearly a year thanks to a recovery in the manufacturing sector and the rally in the stock market.

Some economists have been worrying that growth in the economy will stagnate this year, however, as government support programs wind down and unemployment remains high.

Still, the increase was a sign that the economic recovery should continue through spring, said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein.

The leading indicators index is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months.

Five of the 10 components in the index showed improvement in January: the interest rate spread, supplier deliveries to companies, average weekly hours worked in the manufacturing sector, stock prices and consumer expectations.

The interest rate spread, which is the difference between the cost of borrowing money for 10 years and borrowing overnight, widened. A wider gap between those costs can signal that investors expect inflation to increase or that they expect economic activity to pick up.

The money supply, an increase in weekly claims for unemployment aid, fewer building permits for future home construction and manufacturers' new orders for capital goods weighed on the measure.

Manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods were steady.