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A key gauge of the current state of the economy plunged below the boom-or-bust threshold of 50 percent in March for the first time in eight months, but it should be viewed as a temporary fall, the government said Wednesday.

The diffusion index of coincident economic indicators stood at 11.1 percent, also the lowest since October 2004, when the index hit 9.1 percent, the Cabinet Office said in a preliminary report. The February index was 50 percent.

By contrast, the index of leading indicators, predicting economic developments about six months down the road, stood at 60.0 percent, staying above the 50-percent line for the fourth straight month.