The local economy rose slightly in July, the fourth straight monthly increase. An improvement in the national economic outlook, along with boots in local consumer confidence and local stock prices, pushed the index up.

The index’s other three categories — unemployment, help wanted ads and building permits were negative. The data left University of San Diego economist Alan Gin, who compiles the index, “cautiously optimistic.”

Last month, Gin reported the local economy had risen three months in a row — the usual technical indication of a trend.

But like the real estate broker from our story the other day, Gin’s not putting his party hat on yet. He told me last month that he was hedging a bit in the index even though the economy’s bottom could come as soon as the first half of 2010.

“It’s a mixed message from me, even though this is positive,” Gin said. “Even if we hit that bottom, I think that rebound off the bottom is going to be quite weak. [The monthly readings] haven’t been up very much compared to how dramatic it was on the downside. We could be flat for some time.”

You can read more details from July’s index on Gin’s website.

KELLY BENNETT

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