Surprise drive in new car sales after slump
One of the most accurate reflections of consumer sentiment in Northern Ireland showed a surprise jump last month.
Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that new vehicle registrations in Northern Ireland rose by 2.1% to 3,946 last month.
Over the year to date, there have been less cars registered - 9,548 so far in 2012 compared to 9,854 by this time last year, a drop of 3.11%.
Despite being the only region to report a rise in new car registrations between January and February, Northern Ireland still faces a tougher clawback.
The February improvement follows the previous set of monthly statistics, which showed that new car registrations stood at 5,602 in January, a fall of nearly 6.5% on the same month last year.
Overall, 61,417 new vehicles were registered across the UK in February 2012 compared to 62,854 in February 2011.
Wales is the only region which saw less registrations than Northern Ireland with 1,686, a fall of 4.33%. Over the year, registrations there dropped by over 4%.
On average, throughout the regions, new car sales between January and February fell by 0.21% and year-on-year by 0.9%.
The strongest region was England, although registrations still fell to 51,359 from 52,800 in January and dropped by 1.12% over the year to date.
SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said that the overall fall in new registrations was no surprise.
"The February new car market was broadly in line with industry expectations," he said.
"The March market will provide a much better indicator of industry health than the relatively low volumes traditionally seen in February.
"It is extremely important that the Chancellor uses this month's Budget to strengthen consumer and business confidence by encouraging private sector investment and avoiding any further squeeze on living standards."