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Leading economic indicators rise 0.4% in March

Leading economic indicators rise 0.4% in March (by Ruth Mantell)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The leading economic index rose 0.4% in March, signaling that business conditions will strengthen in the near term, with "sustained" growth through the end of the year, the Conference Board reported Thursday. Six of the 10 indicators included in the leading economic index made positive contributions in March, led by the interest rate spread. The largest negative contribution came from an index of consumer expectations. "Global disruptions, including unrest in the Middle East, rising oil prices and the Japan earthquake, may have some repercussions," said Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board. "However, it remains to be seen what the impact of these shocks will be on the United States and the broader global economy." Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the gauge to rise 0.2% in March. February's result was revised to a gain of 1% from a prior estimate of 0.8% growth. The LEI is a weighted gauge of 10 indicators that are designed to signal business cycle peaks and troughs.