In the latest sign that the US economy is well on the road to recovery, an index of leading indicators from New York-headquartered The Conference Board registered a 0.6% increase in January, the sharpest rise in nearly six years.

The index – which reveals growth prospects for the next three to six months – increased to 112.2 (1996=100), and was up 2.2% for the half-year between July 2001 and January 2002, the fourth consecutive month to register a six-monthly rise.

Accounting for the larger-than-expected surge, The Conference Board pointed to falling interest rates and energy prices and rebounding consumer confidence.

Now above its pre-recession high of January 2000, the index has encouraged hopes of a healthy recovery in the near future.

“The cumulative rise in the index over the past six months is very positive and suggests gathering economic momentum,” declared the Board’s chief economist Ken Goldstein. “The strong signal from the indicators is that the recession is ending and that the recovery could be more vigorous than earlier anticipated.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); The Conference Board additional content by WARC staff