By Austen Hufford

A basket of leading economic indicators jumped in December, a sign that the U.S. economy could pick up in the first months of the new year.

The Conference Board's leading economic index rose 0.5% last month, accelerating from a 0.1% clip in November and 0.2% growth in October.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal projected a 0.5% gain.

Comprised of 10 components, including initial claims for jobless benefits, factory orders and the S&P 500's price change, the index is intended to signal swings in the business cycle and to smooth out some of the volatility of individual indicators.

December's gain was driven by improving outlook sentiment said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles and growth research at TheConference Board.

The board's coincident index -- designed to reflect current economic conditions and made up of four data points including nonfarm payrolls -- rose 0.3% last month after being unchanged in November.

The index of lagging indicators inched up 0.3% in December after gaining 0.4% a month earlier.

Write to Austen Hufford at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 26, 2017 11:15 ET (16:15 GMT)

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