updated 8/20/2007 2:15:25 PM ET 2007-08-20T18:15:25

A gauge of future economic activity inched up in July, a research group said Monday, indicating economic growth may pick up slightly in coming months despite turmoil in the housing market.

Major Market Indices

The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 percent in July, as analysts were expecting. The index fell 0.3 percent in June, after rising 0.2 percent in May.

The report is designed for forecast economic activity over the next three to six months.

The Conference Board report tracks 10 economic indicators. The advancing components in July were consumer expectations, vendor performance, unemployment claims, real money supply, stock prices and manufacturers’ orders for consumer goods and materials.

The negative contributors housing permits, manufacturers’ new orders for non-defense capital goods and interest rate spread. Weekly manufacturing hours held steady.

Over the past few months, the rise and fall of the index “reflects the yo-yo situation in terms of the overall economy,” said Brian Bethune, an economist with Global Insight.

July’s uptick was driven by the employment market and high consumer expectations, he said.

He said Monday’s report bodes well for short-term economic expansion, but said the current credit crunch makes 2008 more uncertain.

Overall U.S. economic output, as measured by the gross domestic product, jumped in the spring to an annual rate of 3.4 percent, the fastest pace in more than a year and up sharply from 0.6 percent growth in the first three months of the year.

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