Outlook Turns Uncertain; Local Economic Indicators Project Cites Slowing Real Estate and Oil Prices as Factors

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Byline: MARK BASCH

The economic outlook for later this year is looking slower, according to indexes of local and national activity.

The Conference Board reported Monday that the U.S. Index of Leading Economic Indicators edged down 0.2 percent in February, the first decline after four months of increases.

Also, the University of North Florida's Local Economic Indicators Project reported that its index of leading indicators for the Jacksonville area fell in February for the fourth time in the last five months.

The indexes are designed to predict economic activity several months in advance.

Although the Jacksonville index has declined for four out of five months, the overall change in the index is "virtually nil," said UNF economist Paul Mason, who coordinates the LEIP project. The index fell 0.32 points to 110.39 last month.

"It is very unclear at this point what the index is implying, but what is clear is that the rollercoaster of oil prices and the slowing of the real estate markets are making the outlook uncertain for the remainder of this year," Mason said. …