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Although many economists contend the economy is again moving at full steam, the government's main barometer of future activity dipped in December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The index of leading indicators registered a 0.2 percent decline in December, and the November level was revised downward to a 0.6 percent gain from what was originally 1.3 percent.

The index is composed of a dozen measurements selected because of their ability to signal future trends in economic activity. The most negative measure in December was a slump in new contracts and orders for plant and equipment.

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