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US economic activity gauge points to near-term strength

[WASHINGTON] A gauge of future US economic activity increased in December, suggesting strength in the economy in the near term.

The Conference Board said on Friday its Leading Economic Index rose 0.5 per cent last month after a downwardly revised 0.4 per cent increase in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index rising 0.4 per cent after November's previously reported 0.6 per cent gain.

"December's gain was driven by a majority of its components, suggesting the short-term outlook is getting brighter and the economy continues to build momentum," said Ataman Ozyildirim, an economist at the Conference Board.

"Current economic conditions measured by the coincident indicators show employment and income gains are helping to keep the US economy on a solid expansionary path despite some weakness in industrial production."