March 20, 2014 10:05 AM, EDT
Leading Economic Indicators Rise; Manufacturing Rises in Philadelphia
Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg News

The index of U.S. leading indicators increased in February, a sign the economy will strengthen after a weather-induced slowdown in the first quarter.

The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months climbed 0.5%, the biggest gain since November, after a revised 0.1% gain the prior month, the New York-based group said March 20. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 0.2% gain.

“The general trend is still positive, and that’s consistent with a pickup in the overall economy,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla., said before the report. “We look for things to pick up.”

In a separate report, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said manufacturing activity in that region increased in March from a decline the prior month.

The Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing gauge rose to 9.0 in March from minus 6.3 the prior month. The average estimate was for an increase to 3.2. Readings above zero show expansion.

The Philadelphia Fed surveys about 100 manufacturers for the index in eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey.