job fair leading economic indicators conference board economy labor marketBy Alister Bull

WASHINGTON -- An index of U.S. leading indicators advanced by more than expected in August as the economy shrugged off higher borrowing costs and the lingering impact of tax increases and Washington budget cuts, that posed a headwind for U.S. growth and hiring.

The private sector Conference Board said Thursday that its Leading Economic Index gained 0.7 percent to 96.6 last month, compared to a 0.5 percent rise in July.

"If the LEI's six-month growth rate, which has nearly doubled, continues in the coming months, economic growth should gradually strengthen through the end of the year," said Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim in a statement.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index to rise 0.6 percent in August. The Conference Board revised its July reading down slightly from a previously reported 0.6 percent increase.

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