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Consumer index stalling but firms’ confidence comes back, study says

Consumer sentiment continues to lag behind business confidence, fresh data from Bank of Ireland suggests.

Bank of Ireland’s regular ‘Economic Pulse’ combines business and consumer elements to track sentiment in the economy month to month.

The index was up 5.5 on last month but down 21.0 compared with a year ago.

Business confidence has risen but the consumer pulse stood at 55.5 in July, down 2.5 on last month.

Concerns included worries about the weak economy amid an uptick in Covid-19 cases and a shaky start for the new Government. Despite the negativity, the share of households saying that they are holding out on spending eased to 55pc, from 61pc at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

In addition, one in three households said they are likely to spend a large sum of money on home improvements over the coming year.

This figure was higher than normal and may reflect savings due to a lack of foreign travel and the need to improve home-working set-ups.

Dr Loretta O’Sullivan, chief economist for Bank of Ireland, said: “Consumer sentiment for the US, the euro area and the UK show a similar pausing in July and clearly illustrate that the process of rebooting economies across the world will not be perfectly smooth.”

The stimulus package just announced by the Government “should help”, Dr O’Sullivan added.

Meanwhile, the business pulse rose for a third consecutive month in July to 63.4, as the economy began to reopen.

The increase suggests companies are more confident about the future, with firms in all four sectors surveyed reporting an improvement in trading conditions.

Firms operating in the construction sector were most positive but retailers and firms in industry and services were more downbeat about the prospects for business activity over the next three months.

On the back of this, businesses in the services sector – which includes a range of industries from bars and hotels to banking, and is the country’s most important – are scaling back hiring plans for the time being.

Bank of Ireland’s Economic Pulse survey is conducted in conjunction with the European Commission, with the data feeding into the commission’s Joint Harmonised EU Programme of Business and Consumer Surveys. The surveys are conducted by Ipsos MRBI with 1,000 households and about 2,000 businesses.

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