Consumer confidence stays cool as summer heats up

24-08-2006

Low levels of consumer confidence remained unchanged in June while confidence in the economy continued to fall, according to the latest Nationwide index.

June's overall rating of 94 matched last month's gloomy forecast while Britons' assessments of the UK economy fell to 89.

Higher living costs, including rising utilities and council tax bills, have not helped conditions on the high street, although Nationwide reported a "slight uplift" in the numbers concerned about employment levels.

"Consumer confidence has now been depressed for a number of months because people still feel concerned about the economy, jobs and the impact on their pockets as higher utility bills start to bite," explained Stuart Bernau, Nationwide's executive director.

"Amid the general gloom the one glimmer of hope is the fact that people's expectations of the future have picked up slightly over the past three months."

Nationwide's expectations index of conditions in six months rose by two points in June to 98, confirming the popular view that productivity in the manufacturing sector and a general expectation of gross domestic product (GDP) growth will, eventually, impact positively.

Last month's Nationwide consumer confidence survey recorded a slump in spending maintaining this year's gloomy prospects for the retail sector, which has responded by continuing to keep prices at a low to encourage spending.

May's index registered a ten per cent fall in spending, demonstrating uncertainty about employment prospects which was reflected this month in the increased number of "don't know" answers to its survey.

With the monetary policy committee's most recent minutes reflecting similar doubts about the future of the UK economy, observers have suggested it is hardly surprising the man on the street is uncertain about what the future holds for UK employment figures.


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