The index of U.S. leading indicators rose in December by the most in three months, Bloomberg reported. 

The Conference Board's gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months increased 0.5 percent. Economists polled by Bloomberg had estimated a 0.4 percent gain.

A recovery in residential real estate, sustained job growth and stock-market gains are giving Americans the wherewithal to spend. But higher payroll taxes and possible budget cutbacks could threaten to limit how fast expansion can advance.

In another economic indicator, claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week to a five-year low. Applications decreased by 5,000 to 330,000 in the week ended Jan. 19, the fewest since the same week in 2008, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Economists had predicted a rise to 355,000 claims. One economist told Bloomberg that claims will likely rise at the end of the month as holiday optimism gives way to uncertainty in Washington.