A report released by the Conference Board on Thursday showed its reading on leading U.S. economic indicators unexpectedly increased for the first time in two years in February.

The Conference Board said its leading economic index inched up by 0.1 percent in February after falling by 0.4 percent in January. Economists had expected the index to decrease by 0.3 percent.

The unexpected uptick marked the first increase by the leading economic index since February 2022.

"Strength in weekly hours worked in manufacturing, stock prices, the Leading Credit Index™, and residential construction drove the LEI's first monthly increase in two years," said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, Senior Manager, Business Cycle Indicators, at The Conference Board.

She added, "However, consumers' expectations and the ISM® Index of New Orders have yet to recover, and the six- and twelve-month growth rates of the LEI remain negative."

The Conference Board said the LEI contracted by 2.6 percent over the six-month period between August 2023 and February 2024, a smaller decrease than the 3.8 percent decline over the previous six months.

"Despite February's increase, the Index still suggests some headwinds to growth going forward," said Zabinska-La Monica. "The Conference Board expects annualized US GDP growth to slow over the Q2 to Q3 2024 period, as rising consumer debt and elevated interest rates weigh on consumer spending."

The report also said the coincident economic index rose by 0.2 percent in February after edging up by 0.1 percent in January.

The lagging economic index also climbed by 0.3 percent in February, matching the increase seen in the previous month.

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