By The Associated Press
ECONOMY IMPROVES: The Conference Board's index of leading indicators increased in December from November 0.5 percent, suggesting economic growth may strengthen in early 2013.
SOURCES OF STRENGTH: Five of the index's 10 components showed improvement, led by a decline in applications for unemployment benefits, gains on Wall Street and an increase in applications for building permits.
OUTLOOK: The gauge is designed to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out. Economists said the December increase points to strength ahead, although they say orders to U.S. factories must improve for the momentum to be sustained.