A private index of US leading economic indicators
surged in December, raising prospects for continued growth in the
first half of 2013.
The index rose 0.5 points to 93.9, based on a 2004 base of 100, the New York-based Conference Board business think tank reported Thursday.
"The latest data suggest that a pickup in domestic growth is now more likely, compared to a few months ago," Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said.
The Conference Board said that the index "rose sharply" last month, based on a large decline in newly jobless workers registering for unemployment benefits. A loosening credit market also provided a boost.
Weak consumer expectations and new orders for manufactured goods continue to weigh on the leading indicators.
The index, which compiles 10 measures that tend to show the direction of the US economy for the next three to six months, was unchanged in November and rose 0.3 points in October, based on year-end revisions.
"Housing, which has long been a drag, has turned into a positive for growth, and will help improve consumer balance sheets and strengthen consumption," Goldstein said. "However, for growth to gain more traction, we also need to see better performance on new orders and an acceleration in capital spending."
The International Monetary Fund issued a projection Wednesday for 2-per-cent growth this year in the United States and an acceleration to 3 per cent in 2014. The forecast puts US growth well ahead of other rich economies, such as those in Europe and Japan.
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