DUBLIN, March 5 (Reuters) - Irish consumer sentiment in February slipped back from a 17-year high on scaled-back spending plans and a more cautious view of the country’s economic prospects, a survey showed on Monday.
Ireland’s economy has posted the fastest growth in Europe since 2014 and unemployment has fallen rapidly, but the recovery has been uneven for some consumers with only modest gains in purchasing power.
The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI consumer sentiment index fell back to 105.2 in February after shooting up to 110.4 in January from 103.2 in December.
It is not unusual for a large monthly improvement at the start of the year to be followed by a fall, KBC chief economist Austin Hughes said. But he estimated around one-third of the pull-back was due to non-seasonal factors.
“The drop ... isn’t entirely surprising but the lack of continuous month-on-month gains emphasises the absence of any broadly based consumer boom,” Hughes said.
There have been no back-to-back monthly increases in the survey since last July.
Both elements of the Irish consumer sentiment survey that relate to general economic conditions showed moderate declines from strong January readings.
Two of the three elements of the survey related to household finances saw significant declines, including what the authors described as an unusually large drop in consumers’ assessment of the current buying climate.
The proportion of Irish consumers that see their personal financial circumstances improving in the next 12 months dropped to 25 percent in February, its lowest level in 14 months and down from 30 percent in January, the report said.
“The survey details continue to point towards a gradual return to more normal conditions, but the pull-back in consumer sentiment in February suggests this may yet take some time,” Hughes said.
Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Hugh Lawson