Belfast Telegraph

Boost in consumer confidence will help aid recovery

By Margaret Canning

Consumer confidence in Northern Ireland is at its highest for nearly two years, a Northern Bank report said today.

The bank's consumer confidence index said easing inflation and more united European leadership over the sovereign debt crisis had soothed fears - but some places were more cheerful than others.

The north east of the province had the lowest confidence level, while greater Belfast was the most buoyant.

The bank's chief economist Angela McGowan said the lack of confidence in the north east was "not surprising".

"The recently announced job losses at FG Wilson were a significant economic blow to this region and without doubt have influenced consumer confidence in this area," she said.

"Nonetheless, it is important to remember that overall we have seen consumer confidence in Northern Ireland rise and this gradual and sustained improvement in consumer sentiment will ultimately help to drive up domestic demand and our overall recovery."

The survey's overall confidence index was up to 111 in the third quarter of this year, up from 108 in the second quarter.

Ms McGowan said: "Headline inflation has fallen back significantly from its peak of 5.2% one year ago to 2.5% this August.

"Easing price pressure combined with more harmonious leadership in Europe regarding the sovereign debt crisis has undoubtedly had an impact upon local confidence levels."

The survey found that people's view on the current health of their household finances compared to one year earlier had greatly improved.

There was a 5% increase in the number of people planning to spend more on big one-off purchases but there would be no return to the high-rolling spending habits of yore.

Ms McGowan said that consumers were less confident that inflation will keep falling and also felt that salary increases were unlikely.