Leading indicators up 0.6% in February, vs. expectations for 0.4% gain

  • The Leading Economic Index rose in February.
  • This is the fourth straight month of gains for the index, which combines 10 economic metrics to take a pulse on the U.S. economy.
  • The index rose 0.8 percent in January.
Customers shop at a Target store in Chicago, Illinois.
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Customers shop at a Target store in Chicago, Illinois.

A composite index of leading economic indicators posted gains that exceeded expectations in February.

The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index rose 0.6 percent to 108.7, marking the fourth straight month of gains for the composite index and exceeding economists' expectations of a 0.4 percent gain.

The measure, which measures 10 key metrics of economic movement, jumped 0.8 percent to 108.1 in January, which followed a gain of 0.7 percent in December.

"The U.S. LEI rose again, despite a sharp downturn in stock markets and weakness in housing construction in February," said Ataman Ozyildirim, the Conference Board's director of business cycles and growth research.

While Ozyildirim said the strong recent showings indicate "robust economic growth throughout 2018," he cautioned that the U.S. Federal Reserve's plans to raise interest rates could affect aspects of the metric.

"While the Federal Reserve is on track to continue raising its benchmark rate for the rest of the year, the recent weakness in residential construction and stock prices — important leading indicators — should be monitored closely," Ozyildirim said.

The index is used to forecast global economic trends and take a pulse on the U.S. economy. The Conference Board, a business research association, determines a composite value based on 10 key metrics, including manufacturers' new orders, stock prices and average weekly unemployment claims, to create the composite value.