By Ilona Billington
LONDON--U.K. consumers were less pessimistic about the economy and their future personal finances in May as better economic news gave them a boost, a survey showed Monday.
The proportion of those feeling better about their finances was higher in the south of the U.K. than in the north, while survey participants also noted that energy bills had risen which likely limited the rise on non-essential items.
The LloydsTSB monthly spending power report consumer confidence index slid one point to 108 in May, meaning it was just below the two-year high of 109 reported in April.
"The recent reports of a return to growth for the U.K. economy are being reflected in improved consumer sentiment, which is good news as better confidence will help to sustain the economic recovery," said Patrick Foley, LloydsTSB's chief economist.
"A gradual easing in the squeeze on consumers from essential spending is helping, although with energy bills increasing again, the improvement in spending power remains modest," Mr. Foley said.
The U.K. economy successfully avoided a triple-dip recession in the first three months of this year after it posted a better than expected 0.3% quarterly gain. And, the better news has broadly continued over the second quarter with data firm Markit's purchasing managers indexes reporting further expansion across the private sector, while unemployment has continued to decline.
One potential problem for the longer term sustainability of the economic recovery remains consumer spending. Its a major part of the economy as it accounts for around 60% of gross domestic product, but with earnings growth hovering around record lows of just 0.9% while inflation is three times that rate at 2.7% there are concerns on how much spending Britons can afford.
The latest figures suggest the squeeze is easing, however, and the LloydsTSB spending report shows that the balance of consumers who expect to have more money after essential spending in the future improved to -6 in May from -9 in April.
The balance is calculated by taking the number who say they think their finances will get worse away from the number who say they will improve.
The survey also showed consumers are becoming less pessimistic on the housing market, which likely reflects the further rise in prices and activity reported in recent months.
Write to Ilona Billington at [email protected]