NEW YORK (AP) -- The economy's health improved for the first time in five months in September as supplier deliveries and new orders strengthened, a private research group said Monday.
The New York-based Conference Board said its monthly forecast of future economic activity rose 0.3 percent, a better reading than the 0.2 percent drop expected by Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR.
The index had fallen a revised 0.9 percent in August and 0.7 percent in July.
A one-time jump in the money supply helped September's index, said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
"The trend is still downwards, and October's index will plunge," Shepherdson said. Down 3.3 percent for the year, the index is "consistent with recession, and it has not hit bottom yet."
Ken Goldstein, a labor economist at the Conference Board, presented a slightly sunnier picture.
"Data on hand reflect a contracting economy, but not one in free fall," Goldstein said. "More likely, what's going in the financial market is a stretching of the recovery process -- which could take a full year to develop."
Six of the ten indicators that make up the leading index increased in September, including the money supply and the index of consumer expectations. The spread between long-term and short-term interest rates, an indicator of credit conditions, also narrowed. The negative contributors were building permits, unemployment claims, stock prices and weekly manufacturing hours.
The cut-off day for data in the index was Oct. 17.