Leading Economic Gauge Dips; Philly Fed Index Shrinks

AP and Reuters With

A measure of U.S. economic activity declined in August for the second time in three months, suggesting the economy remains weak.

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The Conference Board said its index of leading indicators, designed to forecast future economic activity, dipped 0.1 percent in August after rising 0.5 percent in July and dropping 0.5 percent in June.

The weakness in August came from declines in manufacturing orders, consumer confidence and average weekly manufacturing hours. Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said the index depicts an economy still facing significant domestic and international weakness.

The overall economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.7 percent in the April-June quarter. Many economists believe growth will stay weak in the second half of this year.

Philly Fed Factory Activity Shrinks

A separate economic survey showed that factory activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region shrank for the fifth month in a row in September, though the rate of contraction continued to ease as new orders picked up.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index rose to minus 1.9 from minus 7.1 in August, topping economists' expectations for minus 4 according to a Reuters poll.

The forward-looking new orders gauge gained to 1.0 from minus 5.5.

Both measures were at their highest levels since April.

Any reading below zero indicates contraction in the region's manufacturing. The survey covers factories in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

It is seen as one of the first monthly indicators of the health of U.S. manufacturing leading up to the national report by the Institute for Supply Management