A gauge of the U.S. economy's prospects rose more strongly than expected to a record high in March, pointing to a steady economic recovery, a private research group said on Monday.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators increased 1.4 percent, rising for the 12th straight month, after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent gain in February.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 1.0 percent rise in March from a previously reported 0.1 percent gain.

The indicators point to a slow recovery that should continue over the next few months. The leading, coincident and lagging series are rising. Strength in demand remains the big question going forward, said Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

The coincident index, which measures current economic conditions, edged up 0.1 percent in March after 0.1 percent gain the prior month. The lagging index rose 0.2 percent after 0.1 percent increase in February.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)