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Leading economic index rises 8th month in row

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Conference Board's gauge of future economic conditions rose in November, for its 8th straight monthly increase, boosted by improving financial conditions, employment and housing, the private research group said on Thursday.

The Leading Economic Index increased 0.9 percent to 104.9 after rising an unrevised 0.3 percent in October. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected it to increase 0.7 percent.

The index "has been on an uptrend for more than half a year and it is now slightly higher than its latest peak in July 2007," said Conference Board Economist Ataman Ozyildirim in a statement.

The string of increases signals that the economy will slowly improve through 2010, said Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein.

He noted that in November the employment level held steady, making this the first month since December 2007 that it did not drag on the index.

The coincident index, a measure of current economic conditions, also rose, by 0.2 percent, in November. But the lagging index fell 0.4 percent.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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