Britons are becoming more optimistic about the economic recovery and their own finances, an influential survey has revealed.
Market research firm GfK NOP said that even though the overall score on consumer confidence remained unchanged since last month at minus 29, there were grounds for "cautious optimism" in the detail of the index.
Nick Moon, managing director of GfK NOP, said next month's results will determine whether this represents the "beginnings of a sustained improvement".
The consumer confidence barometer shows a boost in consumer sentiment about the state of the economy over the next 12 months, rising from minus 33 in January to minus 29 this month. There has also been a rise in people's confidence regarding their own finances, improving from minus 9 to minus 6 in the last month.
This personal finance score is four points higher than February last year, which suggests people are more upbeat and confident about their finances for 2012 than they were at this time in 2011.
People's expectations for the general economic situation are two points higher than they were in February 2011, the figures also show.
Mr Moon said: "February's figures suggest this current increase in confidence levels is built on sturdier foundations than the short-term spike we saw last year where the gain was wiped out over the following few months."
People were still less positive about making big purchases, with a decline in confidence levels following the January sales from minus 22 to minus 27 this month. Similarly, there was a decline in confidence levels regarding the general economic situation over the last 12 months, down from minus 58 in January to minus 60 this month.
Meanwhile, the "now is a good time to save" index decreased three points to minus 14, which is also three points lower than February 2011.
The survey of 2,000 people aged 16 and over was compiled between February 3 and 12 on behalf of the European Commission.