Leading indicators down 0.2% in January, in line with expectations

Auto worker Imani Long assembles parts that will be welded by a robot for the Dodge Dart rear wheel house at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Warren Stamping Plant in Warren, Michigan.
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A key economic measure fell in January, in line with Wall Street's expectations, according to The Conference Board Thursday.

The Leading Economic Index declined 0.2 percent in January to 123.2, the business trade association said. Stock price declines and weakness in initial claims for unemployment insurance were behind the dip, according to Ataman Ozyildirim, director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board. (Tweet this)

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In spite of the decline in LEI, the economy is still on pace for moderate expansion, Ozyildirim said. The S&P 500 is down 5.87 percent so far this year, while the initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 262,000 for the week ended Feb. 13, the lowest reading since November, the Labor Department said in a separate report.

"Despite back-to-back monthly declines, the index doesn't signal a significant increase in the risk of recession, and its six-month growth rate remains consistent with a modest economic expansion through early 2016," Ozyildirim said in a statement.

Analysts from Thomson Reuters expected a decline of 0.2 percent in January, after a 0.2 percent decline in December 2015. The LEI, a closely followed barometer of economic health, has 10 components including manufacturers' new orders, stock prices, and average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance.

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— Reuters contributed to this report.