GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians dropped one point in February to 76 from January, according to a University of Florida survey. The modest decline followed two months of rising levels of confidence in the economy.
“The pattern of Consumer Sentiment in Florida over the last three months is exactly the same as it was a year ago,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “From December 2010 to February 2011, the overall level of confidence went from 70 to 77, then 76, the same as this year.”
The test of whether the confidence is sustained will come in March, he said. In 2011, it dropped four points. It continued to decline steadily until August as Americans reacted pessimistically to events at home and abroad.
For the moment, however, various economic indicators show why Floridians remain modestly optimistic. For example, recent stock market activity reached post-recession highs, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average over 13,000. This rise, McCarty said, tops a “psychological barrier that if passed could lead to increased investment.”
Florida’s unemployment rate in December dropped to 9.9 percent. Most of the new jobs were in trade, transportation and utilities. Home prices, which edged up to an average $134,300 in December, have stabilized since, though they are expected to decline again later in the year if the Florida Legislature approves legislation to speed up foreclosures on 368,000 properties, McCarty said.