By Xavier Fontdegloria

 

Consumer confidence in the UK increased for the third straight month in April but to a much lesser degree than the previous months, signalling that Britons remain cautious about the pandemic and its economic consequences.

Market-research firm GfK's consumer-confidence barometer stood at minus 15 in April, up one point from the previous month. The reading marks a new pandemic high, but the on-month increase is much lower than the seven-point hike registered in March and February's five-point rise.

After months at severely depressed levels, British consumers' mood improved significantly from February amid a swift Covid-19 vaccination campaign and reopening plans, gaining back some of the ground lost at the beginning of the pandemic. In March 2020, before British consumers felt the hit from the pandemic, the index stood at minus 9.

"Confidence has edged up one point in April with consumers taking a more guarded view on the future," GfK's client strategy director Joe Staton said. The improvement in the consumer mood since January is welcome but the pandemic has hit household finances hard and concerns over new variants, rising inflation and the debt overhang could be seen on the road ahead, he said.

Among the five measures that make up the consumer-confidence barometer, three of them increased, one decreased and one remained flat, the data showed.

Economic expectations for the coming year increased six points to minus 11 following sharp rises in both February and March surveys. The outlook for personal finances was unchanged from the previous month at 10 points, a three-year high.

"This clear trend of growing confidence reflects the forecast of a rebound for our economy during the second half of the year," Mr. Staton said.

As the recovery gains momentum, confident consumers will continue to spend and drive the wheels of U.K. finances into the summer and beyond, he said.

The survey, carried out by GfK, polled around 2,000 individuals between April 1 and 13. Therefore, its results didn't fully capture the effect of the reopening of nonessential retailers and outdoor dining venues in England, which started from April 12.

 

Write to Xavier Fontdegloria at xavier.fontdegloria@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 22, 2021 19:15 ET (23:15 GMT)

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