A new report from a private research group says the U.S. economy was declining even before the most recent financial market turmoil.

The Conference Board's index of leading indicators for August shows the index falling five-tenths of one percentage point to a reading of 100.8.

The index was published Thursday and is intended to forecast trends three to six months in advance.

A separate government report pointed to one bright spot in the economy, as exports are boosting the manufacturing sector.

A report on Philadelphia area factories shows their activity increasing this month.

Economists watch this area report for clues about the health of the factory sector nationwide.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.