March 30, 2017 / 11:02 PM / 4 months ago

Irish consumer sentiment ticks up in March but many still cautious

2 Min Read

DUBLIN, March 31 (Reuters) - Irish consumer sentiment improved in March as concerns about household finances eased, but many remained sceptical the booming economy would significantly improve their living standards, a survey showed on Friday.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index climbed to 101.9 in March from 100.7 in February.

The index has fluctuated sharply in recent months, jumping from a two-year low of 96.2 in December to a seven-month high of 103.1 in January amid uncertainty about the impact of Britain's exit from the European Union.

Ireland's economy has posted the fastest growth in Europe for the past three years and unemployment has fallen steadily.

But consumers remain concerned about rising housing and insurance costs and stagnant wages, the survey's authors said.

The number of consumers reporting a worsening of their personal finances has fallen sharply but the proportion of who feel their households' financial circumstances have improved increased relatively little, the survey showed.

The Irish consumer "is very uncertain about the ability of an improving Irish economy to deliver a significant increase in their living standard," KBC's chief economist Austin Hughes said.

"The recovery is largely a story of an easing in pain rather than consumers signalling a notable increase in prosperity."

Meanwhile, many are struggling to gauge the impact Britain's exit from the European Union is likely to have on their personal finances.

"In the absence of major domestic developments in the next couple of months, we think the major influence on Irish consumer sentiment could be the tone of initial Brexit negotiations," Hughes said. (Reporting by Conor Humphries Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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