Consumer morale rallies to 18-month high

LONDON Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:24am GMT

Shoppers walk through fake snow on Oxford Street during a traffic-free pre-Christmas shopping day in central London November 24, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Shoppers walk through fake snow on Oxford Street during a traffic-free pre-Christmas shopping day in central London November 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

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LONDON (Reuters) - British consumer confidence unexpectedly picked up to an 18-month high in November, according to a survey on Friday that offered Chancellor George Osborne some relief before he sets out his plans to revive a stagnant economy next week.

The GfK NOP headline index rose to -22 from -30 in October, the strongest since May 2011 and better than forecasts for an unchanged reading.

Although Britain's economy emerged from recession in the third quarter, policymakers have warned of a slow and drawn-out recovery. Under pressure to do more to find growth, Osborne will update parliament on his budget plans on December 5.

Austerity measures, weak wage growth and high inflation have darkened the outlook and reduced families' willingness to spend. However, the latest survey suggested the mood of consumers may be slowly improving.

"This is an unexpected rise in consumer confidence," said Nick Moon, GfK's managing director of social research. "The improvement is especially dramatic following such a stagnant summer."

The next few survey results will show whether November's figure was a spike or the start of a positive trend, he added.

A separate survey on Thursday by the Confederation of British Industry, a business lobby group, said retail sales rose in November at the fastest pace in five months.

However, the latest official data was more downbeat. The statistics office said on November 15 that October's retail sales were the weakest since April.

The GfK breakdown showed Britons were more upbeat about their personal finances, while their optimism for wider economy over the year ahead was the strongest since May 2011. Their appetite for making big purchases also improved.

Researchers polled 2,001 people from November 2 to November 11 on behalf of the European Commission, the EU's executive body.

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