Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland consumer confidence going from strength to strength, says report

By Margaret Canning

Consumer confidence in Northern Ireland is at its highest in four years as the economy stabilises at home and abroad, according to a major report.

The index of consumer confidence in Danske Bank's survey increased by two points in the third quarter of the year – and was up eight points on the same period last year.

All five aspects of the survey had improved over the year – though people's spending expectations were the same quarter on quarter.

More people reported feeling more positive about their finances this year compared to last – but there was a strong income divide, demonstrating that the downturn may last longer for the poor than the rich.

Around 22% of high income households were feeling better off, compared to just 6% of low income and unemployed households.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said consumer confidence levels were going from strength to strength.

"Most households are probably aware of the fact that local conditions have improved significantly for the labour market, the housing market and the wider economic environment.

"Consumer confidence is growing not just locally, but nationally and internationally.

"In 2013 we have managed to get through this year without any major disruptions to economic progress."

She said people's feeling that they were better off could stem from an increase in the tax-free personal allowance for working householders.

And steadying house prices could also lend confidence as homeowners' biggest asset was no longer falling in value.

People felt more confident about their finances for the year ahead – but there as another divide between wealthier households, with around 21% feeling that their lot would improve next year, and only 8% of poorer homes harbouring the same optimism.

And there was more confidence around in the south of the province, where 22% of households were confident about the future, compared to 8% of households in the north west.

Around 70% thought there would be no change in their job security, and 9% thought it was getting better. However, 14% believed it would get worse.

Ms McGowan said: "Although consumers are starting to regain confidence, they are still relatively guarded when it comes to splashing out on 'big ticket' items."

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