Leading indicators point to growth in 2010

/ Source: The Associated Press

A private forecast of economic activity rose for the sixth straight month in September, a sign the economy will keep growing next year.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators rose 1 percent last month after a 0.4 percent gain in August. Wall Street economists expected an increase of 0.8 percent last month, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Economists expect the economy grew about 3 percent in the third quarter after falling for a record four straight quarters. But many wonder if that pace can continue in the current quarter and next year as unemployment rises and consumers remain hesitant to spend.

The Conference Board said the indicators' 5.7 growth rate in the six months through September was the strongest since 1983, but joblessness was weighing on the rebound.

"These numbers strongly suggest that a recovery is developing. However, the intensity of that recovery will depend on how much, and how soon, demand picks up," said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein.

A rebound in the housing sector and manufacturing is helping drive economic activity higher, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.

The Conference Board predicts future economic activity by measuring current jobless aid claims, stock prices, consumer expectations, building permits f or private homes and other data.

Of its 10 indicators, only the average work week of manufacturing workers and building permits were negative last month.

The government had reported this week that applications for home building permits, a key gauge of future construction, fell in September by the largest amount in five months.

The Conference Board's coincident index, which measures the current state of the business cycle, was unchanged in September after increasing 1 percent in both August and July. The July gain was the first in nine months.