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Leading indicators rise 0.8%, inch above estimates

A measure of the U.S. economy's health rose in March for the third consecutive month, a sign of stronger growth after harsh winter weather caused the economy's pace to slow.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators increased 0.8 percent in March after a 0.5 percent rise in February and modest 0.2 percent gain in January. It was the best showing since a 0.9 percent gain in November.

Economists polled by Reuters were expecting a gain of 0.7 percent in March.

(Click here to track the U.S. stock market following the report.)

Both hiring and consumer outlooks have improved, fueling much of the index's improvement.

Conference Board economists say the gains last month point to "accelerated growth for the remainder of the spring and the summer," although it remains to be seen whether employers continue to hire at their March and February pace of almost 200,000 workers a month.

—AP

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