Leading economic indicators rise 0.6 percent, top forecast

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The index of U.S. leading indicators climbed in July, pointing to an improvement in growth despite federal spending cuts and weaker global demand that weighed on the U.S. economy in the first half of the year.

The private Conference Board said on Thursday its Leading Economic Index gained 0.6 percent to 96.0 last month, after being unchanged June.

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The improvement does "suggest better economic and job growth in the second half of 2013," said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to gain 0.5 percent. The Conference Board had previously said its leading index was unchanged in June, but on Thursday it revised the reading.

Higher property values tied to the ongoing housing market recovery, along with job gains, is keeping consumer spending elevated and has dampened the effects of higher payroll taxes.

The Conference Board's index suggested the economy was picking up speed despite ongoing uncertainty over slower global growth and the pace of business spending.