Consumer confidence 'may be rising'
Traders have welcomed a new report indicating consumer confidence in Northern Ireland is at its highest for three years.
The Danske Bank survey assessed the financial position of households in the region and their expectations for the year ahead.
In second quarter of the year the benchmarked index rose by 13 points to 117, a nine-point increase on the same period last year.
Michelle Jackson, from Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce, said the findings provide a timely boost. She said: "This is encouraging news as traders prepare for their busiest time of the year in the months running up to Christmas."
The survey recorded it highest-ever response on people's expectations for spending: 18% plan to spend more on big ticket items in the next 12 months, up from 10% a year ago.
People aged 25-34 are the most optimistic about future spending with 28% planning to spend more. compared with just 11% of pensioners, according to the survey.
A significant fall was recorded in the proportion of people who plan to rein in their spending, from 41% to 33%.
Danske Bank's chief economist, Angela McGowan, said: "This latest rise in consumer confidence reflects the general improvement in economic conditions that we have seen over the last few months and augers very well for the economic climate in the months ahead.
"Consumer confidence levels are a strong driver of economic activity and growth, so a recovery in this index is an important indicator. Overall, the index is moving in the right direction with a significant move away from negative opinions towards more neutral or even slightly positive responses.
"It is interesting that the index can improve like this even when real incomes are actually falling; but such a strong rebound does suggest that people are definitely less gloomy and slightly more optimistic about their economic future. Perhaps the recent job creation announcements in Northern Ireland, the successful G8 summit and the calmer economic climate in Europe have all worked to raise levels of optimism."