Belfast Telegraph

One fifth of Northern Ireland households claim to be better off this year than in 2015

By Joanne Sweeney

One in five households in Northern Ireland believe they are better off in 2016 compared to last year, the latest consumer confidence report revealed.

But while the majority of households say that their financial position has not changed, 18% believe that they are worse off than last year, according to the new Danske Bank Consumer Confidence quarterly index today.

Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said a fall in confidence levels towards the end of last year had not continued into 2016.

But she added: "It should be noted, however, that the improvement in quarter one was pretty small and just brings the index back to the quarter one 2015 level."

And she said uncertainty around the Brexit referendum was having an effect on consumer confidence - and was likely to do so until after June 23.

Speaking about the quarterly index findings, Ms McGowan said: "A mixture of subdued global growth and Brexit uncertainty appear to be weighing on consumer sentiment right now.

"However, these negativities are to a certain extent balanced out by lower inflation and rising real incomes.

"The combination of these positive and negative forces is keeping Northern Ireland's consumer confidence levels more or less static."

Ms McGowan also welcomed the fact that 20% of households now felt better off, as she said it was "the highest level of positive responses recorded for this question since the survey began".

Nearly two-thirds of people did not expect any change in their job security over the year.

And the group most like to splash their money around over the next year was those in the 25-to-34-year age bracket - though overall people indicated that they planned to be careful with their money.

Belfast city remained the most confident area, with the north of the province the least confident.

Ms McGowan also warned that Northern Ireland would pay a high price in the event of a Brexit, as she addressed an economic briefing held by business advisors BDO in Belfast yesterday.

She said that the economic outlook for Northern Ireland was still cloudy, but that things would be clearer by the autumn after the referendum - if Britain remains in the EU.

Ms McGowan added: "In reality, the outlook for household finances is very uncertain because of the EU referendum.

"Should the UK choose to leave the EU, we would expect to see inflation spike upwards, while economic activity and job creation would slow.

"Without doubt we could expect our consumer confidence index to dip alongside investment and overall economic activity in the second half of 2016 and in early 2017, should a divorce between the UK and Europe go ahead."

Meanwhile, BDO partner Maybeth Shaw urged businesses to start planning for the devolution of corporation tax, which is set to be cut to 12.5% in April 2018. And a cut in the UK rate to 17.5% by 2020 was another factor to consider.

Belfast Telegraph