Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Confidence levels of consumers hit a six-year high, says bank survey

Confidence levels were highest in parts of Co Antrim
Confidence levels were highest in parts of Co Antrim

Consumer confidence in Northern Ireland has shot to the highest level in six years, a survey has found.

Danske Bank's consumer confidence index has revealed personal fiscal indicators are sitting at their highest point since 2008.

The figures illustrating the financial position of householders and their views on the years ahead showed a rise to 132 in the first quarter of this year, rising by nine points over the quarter and 28 points since the same period last year.

Confidence levels were highest in parts of Co Antrim with men marginally more optimistic than women and single people and young people from 16-34 most confident of all in many areas.

The survey found that the majority of respondents (60%) believed their personal finances would stay the same over the next 12 months but that one in five were hopeful of an improvement during the same period.

Danske Bank also said the number of households believing their finances would deteriorate in the next year had fallen back to 18%.

The more positive figure compared to 23% in the last quarter and 34% one year ago.

Not all economic barometers paint such a glowing picture of individuals' financial health, however. The Consumer Council recently unveiled research which showed that although the Northern Ireland economy is set to grow at its fastest rate since 2007, households were continuing to struggle with household bills and the cost of living.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said that overall, the survey was "very encouraging".

"The overall strong and continued improvement in local consumer confidence reflects the much improved economic environment and augurs very well for the year ahead," she said.

"Falling inflation, a stabilised housing market and an improved outlook for jobs are all clearly having an impact upon consumer sentiment in Northern Ireland.

"Working households are quite rightly anticipating that their financial position should improve in the year ahead.

"As inflation falls, the pressure on household incomes is easing," she added.

The study showed that confidence levels were highest among men, full-time workers, single people and young people between 16 and 34.

Geographically, householders in the north east of Northern Ireland, including Ballymena, Antrim, Carrickfergus, Larne and Ballymoney were among those who feel most well-off compared to last year.

Statistics from the Consumer Council published just in March showed that "though benefits may be being felt in the general economy there is a definite lag before consumers see this translated to their pocket, household budget or to prices on the high street," according to interim director of policy, Kathy Graham.

"Poorer households have been hardest hit by the higher food and energy prices and in Northern Ireland are £1,000 worse off a year than they were 10 years ago," she added.

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