Utah's Index of Leading Economic Indicators gave back part of January's gain but still remained above the November and December levels, reports First Security Corp.

The drop in February was 1.4 percent, half the 2.8 percent increase in January, said Kelly K. Matthews, chief economist for the financial services company.He said the economic softening in Utah was widespread. Only non-farm job placements increased among the index's nine components. Matthews said seasonal adjustments may have contributed to the data variability in January and February but no clear trend can be seen in the index for the past several months.

Compared to the same period last year, growth momentum improved in February, said Matthews. The February index of 155.7 - measured from a base of 100 in 1978 - was 1.0 percent higher than 1990, compared with 0.6 percent in January.

The index measures new car loans, the consumer loan delinquency rate, initial claims for unemployment, valuation of nonresidential construction permits, new dwelling unit permits, manufacturing workweek hours, nonfarm job placements, new car sales and new Utah corporations.