The U.S. leading economic index jumped 0.9% in October and pointed toward a pickup in growth toward the end of 2021, the Conference Board said Thursday. “The U.S. LEI rose sharply in October suggesting the current economic expansion will continue into 2022 and may even gain some momentum in the final months of this year,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles research at the board. The one caveat: Rising Covid cases in parts of the Northeast and Midwest. That could mar an otherwise strong finish to the year. The leading index had increased just 0.1% in September and 0.7% in August. The LEI is a weighted gauge of 10 indicators designed to signal business-cycle peaks and valleys.