NEW YORK - The composite index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.3% in March following an unrevised 0.7% gain in February, the Conference Board reported Thursday.

The coincident index grew 0.2% in March after an unrevised 0.2% gain in February, while the lagging index rose 0.3% after a revised 0.1% climb in February, originally reported as a 0.2% increase.

The LEI stands at 95.7, the coincident index is at 104.2 and the lagging index is at 114.4 The LEI has a baseline of 100, which reflects the level in 2004.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted LEI would be up 0.2% in the month.

“Despite relatively weak data on jobs, home building and output in the past month or two, the indicators signal continued economic momentum,” said the Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. “We expect a gradual improvement in growth past the summer months.”

“The LEI increased for the sixth consecutive month, pointing to a more positive outlook despite subdued consumer expectations and weakness in manufacturing new orders,” according to the Conference Board Economist Ataman Ozyildirim. “Moreover, the six-month growth rate of the LEI continues to improve. The CEI, a measure of current economic conditions, has also increased in five of the last six months, with broad based gains in all components.”

Seven of the 10 indicators that comprise the LEI rose in March: interest rate spread, building permits, stock prices, Leading Credit Index (inverted), average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance (inverted), manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials, and manufacturers' new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft. Average weekly manufacturing hours, average consumer expectations for business conditions and ISM new orders index were negative.

The coincident index saw manufacturing and trade sales, employees on nonagricultural payrolls, and personal income less transfer payments rise in the month. Industrial production was flat.

The lagging index saw positives from average duration of unemployment (inverted), ratio of consumer installment credit outstanding to personal income, and change in labor cost per unit of output, manufacturing, and ratio of manufacturing and trade inventories to sales. Commercial and industrial loans outstanding was negative. Change in CPI for services and average prime rate charged by banks were flat in the month.

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