The government said Friday the index of leading economic indicators grew 0.8 percent in March after a revised jump of 1.3 percent in February, solid gains that analysts said were evidence of moderate prosperity.
Rising stock prices and stronger employment led the advance last month in the government's main gauge of future economic growth, according to the Commerce Department's Census Bureau."The rise is in line with expectations and confirms the perception of a generally strong economy over the next few months," said Norman Robertson, chief economist of Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh.
In another report, the Census Bureau said sales of new, single-family houses bounced back last month to levels that preceded the October stock market crash. Sales rose 4 percent in March following a 14.1 percent hike in February.
Stock prices made the largest contribution to the rise in the index of leading indicators last month, followed by a decrease to 304,000 from 321,000 in the average number of initial claims for state unemployment insurance.
All figures were adjusted for seasonal variations.
Other contributors were, in order of impact, vendor performance, building permits, money supply and change in sensitive materials prices.
"These were solid gains here," said Michael Evans of Evans Economics. "There were no flukes in the data, and we're looking at a pretty good gain in April, too."