NEW YORK (AP) _ The manufacturing economy cooled off in September while a separate gauge of future economic activity rose in August for a fourth straight month, according to separate reports today.

In one of the first reports on the economy's strength in September, the National Association of Purchasing Management said its index measuring the industrial economy to 54.2 percent last month from 56.8 percent in August. A separate measure of inflationary pressures in manufacturing rose, however, climbing to 0.9 percent in September, said the group of executives who purchase supplies and raw materials for business.

Separately, the Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.2 percent in August to 104.3 from 104.1 in July. The index, designed to forecast changes in the economy's direction, had increased 0.3 percent in July following a 0.1 percent rise in June and 0.2 percent rise in May.

The index is a composite measure of 10 previously reported economic indicators. Over the six months through August, the Conference Board index increased 0.9 percent. During the same period, six of the 10 leading economic indicators advanced.

The purchasing managers report is closely followed as an early indicator of the economy's current strength while the leading indicators point to its future direction.