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UK Consumer Confidence Climbs To Nine-Month High

22:50, 25th April 2012

(RTTNews) - Confidence among British consumers climbed to its highest level in nine months in March as households turned less concerned about the economy and employment prospects, a survey by Nationwide Building Society showed Thursday.

The consumer confidence index rose to 53 in March, the highest since June 2011, from 44 in February. Economists had forecast a slight fall to 43.

The surprise improvement in sentiment is unlikely to be sustained as official data out on Wednesday showed that the economy entered a double-dip recession in the March quarter of 2012 for the first time since the 1970s.

The economy contracted 0.2 percent in the first quarter after 0.3 percent slump in activity in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The March confidence index reading was still well below the long-term average of 76. Nonetheless, the survey data tally with the latest retail sales and employment data. Retail sales increased at the strongest pace in more than one year in March, while unemployment rate fell from a 16-year high in the three months to February.

"With the economy expected to gather pace only slowly, the improvement in confidence may prove short-lived," Nationwide's chief economist Robert Gardner said.

"Indeed, the sharp falls in inflation seen at the start of the year are unlikely to be repeated in the near-term," he said. As a result, "the easing of price pressures will be less visible to households in the months ahead."

A recent survey by research firm GfK NOP showed a decline in consumer confidence in March.

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