LEADING INDICATORS DROPPED IN FEBRUARY

LEADING INDICATORS DROPPED IN FEBRUARY

U.S. leading economic indicators fell 0.6 percent in February, largely influenced by the month's 25 percent decline in building permits, according to the average forecast of six economists.

''The large decline in building permits, combined with weakness in stock prices, vendor performance and the manufacturing data resulted in a good-sized decline in leading indicators," said Charles Lieberman, an economist with Manufacturers Hanover.Mr. Lieberman is expecting the index, which was unchanged in January, to drop 0.5 percent in February.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to release the leading indicators report Tuesday.

Also citing the decline in building permits was Marilyn Schaja, a money market economist with Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette, who predicted a 0.7 percent drop in the indicators.

While most economists cited building permits as a key factor in their predictions, Robert Gay of Morgan Stanley in New York said, "The major positive contribution was the new orders for consumer goods and materials, but the others are smaller contributions."

He prediced a 0.7 percent drop in the overall index.