NEW YORK -- An important gauge of future economic activity remained unchanged in June, the latest indication that the U.S. economy may be cooling down, a private industry group said Wednesday.
The Index of Leading Economic Indicators held steady at 106, forecasting a break from rapid economic growth for the rest of 2000, the Conference Board said. The results met economists' expectations.
The index, which attempts to forecast economic trends for the next three to six months, stood at 100 in 1996, its base year. It dropped 0.1 point in May after holding steady in April.
The numbers released Wednesday may play a role in whether the Federal Reserve decides to hike interest rates when it meets Aug. 22. Concerns about too-rapid economic expansion and fears of inflation have prompted the Fed to raise interest rates six times since last summer.
The central bank left rates unchanged at its most recent meeting in June, but left the door open to another rate hike at its next meeting.
Stocks were generally higher following the report's release, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 67 points to 10,674 and the Nasdaq composite index up 25 points to 3,710.
"The Leading Indicators are cooling off from the rapid pace registered at the end of last year," said Ken Goldstein, an economist for the New York-based board. "This is not the kind of performance to be expected when gross domestic product grows by 5.2 percent, as it did in the second quarter of 2000. Some unusual influences are having an impact on the leading indicators, especially the interplay between the bond market and the Federal Reserve Board."
Chairman Alan Greenspan has said he would like to see growth slow to the 3-3.5 percent range.
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