A decline in Nebraska business owners’ expectations for sales and employment over the next six months tempered positive signs for growth ahead, leading to predictions of modest growth for the state’s economy in the first half of 2013.

The Leading Economic Indicator for Nebraska, which predicts economic growth six months into the future, rose by 0.11 percent in December, University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist Eric Thompson said Friday. Thompson said recent values for the indicator suggest that the state’s economy should grow solidly during the first quarter of 2013, but that growth will be limited between April and June.

The six components of the indicator were mixed in December, said Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research.

Two components contributed to the increase: improvements in the dollar exchange rate and a decline in initial claims for unemployment.

“A falling U.S. dollar and a drop in initial unemployment insurance claims suggest improvement in exports and the labor market in Nebraska during the first half of 2013,” Thompson said.

“However, respondents to the Survey of Nebraska Businesses were pessimistic about the prospects for sales and employment growth over the next six months.”

He said some of those negative expectations may have reflected concerns about fiscal cliff negotiations going on at the time.

Other concerns were small declines in airline passenger counts and in manufacturing hours. Single-family building permits fell modestly after a big increase in November.

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