The economic outlook remained mixed Wednesday as the index of leading indicators rose 0.3% in July, while construction spending went down 0.5%.

The rise in the Conference Board's index, which was designed to predict economic growth over the next six months, was the eighth in the last 10 months. The gains were led by increases in factory orders, hours worked, and stock prices. The June figure was revised down dramatically, to a drop of 0.1% from an increase of 0.5%.

A growing money supply and a drop in jobless claims also contributed to the index's increase for July.

"The economy still has some momentum but not enough to suggest the Federal Reserve has to hike rates," said Astrid Adolfson, an economist at MCM MoneyWatch in New York. Concern that the Fed may raise interest rates again this year has pressured bond prices this week.

The economic expansion, now in its ninth year, would set a record for longevity early next year.

Of the 10 components of the index, seven rose, two declined, and one was unchanged. Factory orders include consumer goods and nondefense capital goods, both of which rose.

The index of coincident indicators -- a gauge of current economic activity, including industrial output -- rose 0.2%, the third consecutive monthly increase. The index of lagging indicators rose 0.6% in July after a decline of 0.4% in June.

The 0.5% decline in July construction reported by the Commerce Department was greater than the 0.4% most analysts had expected. It was the fourth straight drop, as building of private industrial projects, schools, and single-family homes fell. Analysts said higher borrowing costs may have been behind the decline.

In December the current period of economic growth, which started in April 1991, surpassed the 92-month expansion in the Reagan era and became the longest peacetime expansion on record.

The only longer expansion, from 1961 to 1969, coincided with the Vietnam War, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research Inc., which has collected data since 1854.

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