Consumer morale falls for fourth month in June

LONDON Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:05am BST

A shopper walks down a street in London December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A shopper walks down a street in London December 18, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON (Reuters) - British consumer confidence fell for the fourth month in a row in June ahead of a budget that imposed hefty spending cuts and tax hikes in a bid to rein in a record national budget deficit, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The GfK NOP Consumer Confidence Index dropped by one point to -19, the lowest level since December 2009, but still six points higher than this time last year.

Four of the five measures decreased this month, with confidence in personal finance over the next 12 months the only one to see a rise.

The falls could deepen concerns about a double-dip recession, GfK NOP said.

The measure for the general economic situation over the next 12 months slipped by three points to -12, four points lower than in June 2009, while the index measuring personal finances over the coming year increased by one point to -2, three points lower than last year.

Fear over personal finances sometimes lags people's outlook on the general economy.

The survey of 2,000 people was taken before the Conservative-led coalition's June 22 emergency budget which proposed spending cuts at government departments of about 25 percent as well as a range of tax increases including VAT sales tax to 20 percent from 17.5 percent.

The government produced the harshest budget in a generation in its attempt to eliminate borrowing worth about 11 percent of national output within five years.

"The ongoing debate around spending cuts and speculation around tax hikes in the lead-up to the emergency budget has impacted consumer confidence, with gains from December to February now lost," Nick Moon, managing director of GfK NOP social research, said in a statement.

"Concerns about the fragility of the recovery and the potential for a double-dip recession may be exacerbated by the fall in confidence in the general economy."

People's perception of the economic situation during the past 12 months dipped one point to -46, still 27 points higher than this time last year.

The index for personal finances slid one point to -14, four points higher than the same period last year.

The data, compiled on behalf of the European Commission between June 4 and 20, suggested consumers are still wary about splashing money around.

The major purchase index, where consumers are asked if now is the right time to buy expensive items such as furniture or electrical goods, fell by three points to -24, two points higher than in June 2009.

The number of people who think now is a good time to save increased by one point to -4, some 11 points higher than this time last year.

"The outlook for major purchases has dropped, which suggests the government cannot rely on consumers to fuel growth," Moon added.

(Writing by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Ron Askew)

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