The Leading Economic Index was up 0.4 percent following an upwardly revised 0.5 percent gain in December and a 0.3 percent increase in November.
Economists had predicted a 0.5 gain based on steady growth in manufacturing, strong retail figures and a declining unemployment rate.
The index, which reached 94.0 in January is, essentially, a comparison to 2004, the year the Conference Board assigned a level of 100.
In January, the gain "reflected fairly widespread strength among its components, pointing to somewhat more positive economic conditions in early 2012," said Conference Board economist Ataman Ozyildirim.
The gains were pushed by "improving financial and credit indicators, but also [a] rising average workweek in manufacturing," he said.