A sharp pick-up in housing permits caused an October rebound of The Conference Board leading economic index, suggesting the risk of an economic downturn has diminished, according to the board's economists. The index rose 0.9% in October to 117.4, following a 0.1% increase in September, and a 0.3% gain in August. The index is scaled to a score of 100 in 2004. "Improving consumer expectations, stock markets, and labor market indicators also contributed to this month’s gain in the LEI as did the continuing positive contributions from the interest rate spread," said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at The Conference Board. "The coincident economic index also rose somewhat, led by higher industrial production and employment." The coincident economic index for the U.S. increased 0.2% in October to 103.5, following no change in September and August. The lagging economic index increased 0.6% in October to 110.9, following a 0.1% increase in September, and a 0.2% increase in August. "The LEI is pointing to continued growth this winter, possibly even gaining a little momentum by spring," said Ken Goldstein, another economist at the board. "The lack of confidence has been the biggest obstacle in generating forward momentum, domestically or globally. As long as it lasts, there is a glimmer of hope." The composite economic indexes are key elements in a system designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data. Write to Justin T. Hilley. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHilley.