The numbers: The leading indicators for the economy rose in February for the first time in two years in another sign the U.S. is likely to keep growing and avoid a recession.

The index of leading economic indicators crept up 0.1% last month, the Conference Board said Thursday. It’s the first increase since February 2022.

The leading index is a gauge designed to show whether the economy is getting better or worse. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.1% decline in February.

The U.S. economy lapsed into recession the two other times the index was negative for longer — 1973-75 and 2007-09. The post-pandemic period has broken from normal economic patterns, however.

Big picture: The economy is expanding at an above-average speed despite sharply higher interest rates and there’s little sign of a pending recession.

How well the economy does this year could depend in part on whether the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates this year as widely expected. Fed officials want to see inflation slow further before making a move.

Looking ahead: “Despite February’s increase, the index still suggests some headwinds to growth going forward,” said Justyna Zabinska–La Monica, senior manager of business-cycle indicators.

“The Conference Board expects annualized U.S. GDP growth to slow over the second quarter to third quarter period, as rising consumer debt and elevated interest rates weigh on consumer spending.”