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Gauge of US economy posts solid February gain

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A measure of the U.S. economy's health rose in February by the largest amount in three months, suggesting growth should rebound following a severe winter.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.5 percent in February following a slight 0.1 percent rise in January and a 0.1 percent decline in December. It was the best showing since a 0.9 percent gain in November.

Economists said the better-than-expected increase indicates any weather-related problems the economy is experiencing now will be short-lived and the economy will be poised for better growth in the second half of this year.

“The biggest challenge continues to be weak consumer demand, pinned down by weak wage growth,” said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. “These conditions were still in evidence the first two months of the year, but will likely improve as spring arrives.”

Many economists expect the overall growth rate in the January-March quarter will dip below 2 percent because of the weather disruptions but they are forecasting a rebound in coming quarters to growth of around 3 percent.

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