Consumers 'happiest' in years over finances: survey
Northern Ireland consumers are feeling the most bullish about their finances for at least five years, according to a major survey.
Danske Bank said that the highest level of consumer confidence since its research into consumer attitudes began signalled that the worst of the downturn was over.
The index of confidence for the last quarter of 2013 was 123, compared to 110 a year earlier. The survey's lowest point was 94 in 2011.
Danske Bank's chief economist Angela McGowan said: "The latest surge in consumer confidence is consistent with a marked improvement in the wider economic environment and reflects a substantial fall in negative responses.
"People appear much less apprehensive about their financial future and there is a definite sense that the worst is behind us."
Some 15% of households questioned in Danske's survey said their finances had improved in 2013, and people's spending plans were their most ambitious for five years. And 25 to 34-year-olds were the most optimistic of all age groups about their finances in 2014.
But overall sentiment on job security was the same as before.
Just over half of those surveyed said their financial position stayed the same over 2013, and full-time employees were more chirpy about finances this year compared to last.
But there was a disparity between how middle to higher income people felt about their prospects, compared to low income homes, with 20% of the former feeling better off, compared to 7% of the latter.
Ms McGowan said participation in the labour market had a "huge impact" on confidence.
"For those in full-time jobs the financial stresses appear to be significantly less relative to other households."
She said the Bank of England's commitment to keeping rates at 0.5% through the whole of 2014, along with the slow steadying of the housing market, "have without doubt combined to make households feel better about the year ahead".
But the low interest environment appeared to be taking its toll on pensioners, who were much more cautious about splashing out in the year ahead.
Despite feeling more confident about some aspects of their finances, people were not overly confident about their job security increasing in 2014.