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NEW YORK (AP) — A widely watched gauge of the U.S. economy Monday gave little evidence of the postwar bounce many had been hoping for.

The New York-based Conference Board said Monday that its Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose a slight 0.1 point in April to 110.6.

The index, which attempts to measure where the economy is headed in the next three to six months, had fallen 0.2 points in March and 0.5 points in February.

The research institute said the index was buoyed by the rise of the stock market and consumer expectations, but weakness in the labor market and manufacturing held it down.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said the index suggested that the country's gross domestic product will increase at an annual rate of 1.5 percent in the second quarter, about the same as the last two quarters.

"While the economy is growing and not losing momentum, growth is very slow and will be that way for at least a few more months," Goldstein said.

The index stood at 100 in 1996, its base year. The slight rise matched analyst expectations, but stocks accelerated their decline after the report was released. In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones average was down 177 points at 8,502, while the Nasdaq was off 37 points at 1,502 and the S&P 500 was 22 points lower at 923.

The coincident index, which measures current economic performance, declined 0.1 point to 114.9 after holding steady in March.

Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis, said the index readings were mostly a reflection of how the economy did during the war against Iraq. He was more upbeat about the economic outlook.

"There really hasn't been enough time after the war to get a clean indicator," Thayer said.

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