The Leading Economic Index pulled up 0.6% to 95 for April, according to a Conference Board report (link opens in PDF) released today. After falling a revised 0.2% for March, analysts' estimates of a 0.3% gain proved too pessimistic for this new report's gains.

The Leading Economic Index attempts to identify economic turning points by aggregating a variety of individual indicators. It uses 2004 as a benchmark 100 score, and dropped as low as 78 in 2009, and reached as high as 108 in 2006.

According to Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim, housing permits and the interest rate spread were the main movers behind April's improvement. Ozyildirim also noted significant contributions from the labor market as an additional key aspect of the economy's upside potential.

With the index up a seasonally adjusted 3.5% in the last six months, Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein adds that economic expansion is still anything but assured: "The biggest risk right now is the adverse impact of cuts in federal spending. The biggest positive factor is the potential for improvement in the recovering housing and labor markets. The biggest unknown is the resiliency in confidence, both consumer and business."

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