U.S. leading economic indicator unexpectedly falls in January

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FILE PHOTO: Container trucks , ships and cranes are shown at the Port of Long Beach. California

WASHINGTON – A gauge of future U.S. economic activity fell in January for the first time in nearly a year amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, high inflation and supply chain disruptions, supporting expectations that growth would slow in the first quarter.

The Conference Board said on Friday its Leading Economic Index dropped 0.3% last month, the first decline since February 2021, after increasing 0.7% in December. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to rise 0.2%.

Gross domestic product estimates for the first quarter are mostly below a 2.0% annualized rate. The economy grew at a 6.9% pace in the fourth quarter.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani)