Leading Economic Indicator Index Gain Points to 2Q Rebound

An index of U.S. leading indicators increased in March by the most in four months, a sign the economic expansion will strengthen following harsh winter weather.

The Conference Board’s index, a gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months, rose 0.8% after a 0.5% gain in February, the New York-based group said April 21.

The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.7% increase.

Continued gains in the labor market, improving consumer sentiment and strengthening demand are boosting consumption among households, which have spent the past five years cleaning up their balance sheets.

Looking ahead, Americans will need bigger wage gains to extend a recent pickup in spending, which accounts for 70% of the economy.

“The economy is picking up momentum after a slow start and a weak first quarter,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc., said in an interview prior to the report. “There’s definitely more going up than down.”