New leading indicator sees Canada averting downturn in 2012

* New private index replaces one canceled by Statistics Canada

* August indicator +0.1 pct; previous months +0.2 pct * New indicator predicts recessions with 7.4-month lead time

OTTAWA, Oct 11 (Reuters) - A new Canadian composite leading indicator, released for the first time on Thursday, showed a rise of 0.1 percent in August and suggested Canada will avoid a recession this year.

It was the inaugural launch of the indicator by the private-sector Macdonald-Laurier Institute, which is trying to fill a void left by the cancellation by the government agency Statistics Canada of its composite leading indicator in May.

Macdonald-Laurier changed the composition of the index to enable it to predict economic performance further out, and built a series of historic data using the new criteria. It shows consecutive gains of 0.2 percent for the previous four months.

"The slow, steady growth of the index suggests the Canadian economy will avert a downturn in 2012, despite the recession gripping much of Europe and slower growth in the United States and Asia," a statement said.

The think tank said that on average the new index signals recessions with a lead time of 7.4 months.

The next release of the indicator is on Oct. 30.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Kenneth Barry)