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Gauge of US economy's health rises 0.1 percent

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of the economy's health rose modestly in December, suggesting that growth will remain steady early this year.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators rose 0.1 percent last month. That's down from a 1 percent gain in November, the month after a partial 16-day shutdown of the federal government.

The index is designed to signal economic conditions over the next three to six months.

The surge in stock prices helped lift the index last month. Worries about upcoming budget battles in Washington could cause businesses and consumers to curb their spending. But Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said a "better-than-expected holiday season might point to sustained stronger demand and could put the U.S. on a faster growth track in 2014."

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