An index of leading indicators for the U.S. economy picked up in August, surprising analysts. The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index rose 0.7% to 96.6 last month after a 0.5% gain in July. "If the LEI's six-month growth rate, which has nearly doubled, continues in the coming months, economic growth should gradually strengthen through the end of the year," said Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim.

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