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    Consumer confidence jumps despite lingering inflation pain

    istock

    British consumers have turned more optimistic about the outlook for the economy and their personal finances this month but their mood remains a long way off pre-COVID levels, market research firm GfK said today (24).

    Despite lingering cost-of-living pressures, GfK’s headline consumer confidence index was stronger than anticipated in November, increasing to -24 from October’s three-month low of -30. November’s reading was above the -28 forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, and follows a sharp fall the month before.

    The six-point increase was the biggest month-on-month improvement since March to April although Friday’s reading was still much weaker than just before the coronavirus pandemic hit Britain.

    “Recent ups and downs in confidence have underlined the nation’s topsy-turvy economic mood as encouraging news about falling inflation and wage growth is offset by high personal taxation, alongside costly fuel and energy bills,” Joe Staton, GfK’s client strategy director, said.

    Britain’s economy has suffered stagnating growth but GfK’s measure of how consumers view the economy in the 12 months ahead increased to -26 from -32 in October while feelings about the outlook for their personal finances rose by five points to -3.

    The Bank of England, which has held interest rates at 5.25 per cent at its last two meetings after 14 consecutive increases, is closely monitoring upside risks to inflation. Financial markets are almost certain rates have peaked, but Governor Andrew Bailey last week said it was “too early” to think about rate cuts.

    While British consumer price inflation fell significantly from a 41-year high of 11.1 per cent just over a year ago to 4.6 per cent in October, households are still grappling with the highest inflation rate among major rich economies.

    Britain’s official budget forecasters warned on Wednesday inflation would be more persistent than expected and living standards would be 3.5 per cent lower in the 2024-25 financial year than before the pandemic, despite finance minister Jeremy Hunt’s measures to boost the country’s economy.

    Official data published last week showed shoppers spent less in October as finances remain stretched.

    However, Staton noted an increase in the sub-index of shoppers’ willingness to make expensive purchases, which he said would be welcome news for retailers in the run up to the crucial Christmas period.

    GfK conducted its poll of 2,000 people from Nov 1 to Nov 14.

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