INDEX OF LEADING INDICATORS DROPS 1 PERCENT

* The government's chief economic forecasting gauge fell 1 percent in March, the steepest decline since the middle of the recession more than two years ago, the Commerce Department said May 4.

The decrease followed a modest 0.5 percent increase in February and a slight 0.1 percent decline in January. The index is designed to predict economic activity six to nine months in advance.

Analysts do not expect the economy to slip back into recession this year. Last week, the department reported first quarter GDP growth at 1.8 percent.

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