The pattern is becoming quite familiar now another economic report, another surprise.
A key gauge of U.S. economic activity rose 0.8 percent in January, reversing three consecutive monthly declines and signaling unexpected resilience in the U.S. economy.
The New York-based Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose to 109.4 last month, evidence that the economy is steering clear of recession.
"With the 0.8 percent rise in January, the overall signal remains one of moderation in the pace of economic activity, with no recession looming on the horizon," said Ken Goldstein, economist for the Conference Board.
The markets were lower following the release of the report Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average off 35 points to 10,491 and the Nasdaq composite index down 42 points to 2,226.
The rise in the January index was the largest increase in over two years, but does not offset the declines of recent months, the Conference Board said. Last month's increase followed a 0.6 percent drop in December, the largest decrease in five years.
Analysts had expected the January index to rise 0.4 percent in January. But one economist downplayed the importance of the figure, calling it a temporary bounce in an economy that remains unsettled.
"I don't think that it marks the all-clear signal for the economy," said Mark Vitner, vice president and economist with First Union Corp.
"I don't think that the good news in this report is going to carry over into coming months," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this story