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INDEX OF LEADING INDICATORS DROPS 1 PERCENT

* The government's chief economic forecasting gauge fell 1 percent in March, the steepest decline since the middle of the recession more than two years ago, the Commerce Department said May 4.

The decrease followed a modest 0.5 percent increase in February and a slight 0.1 percent decline in January. The index is designed to predict economic activity six to nine months in advance.

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Analysts do not expect the economy to slip back into recession this year. Last week, the department reported first quarter GDP growth at 1.8 percent.