By Will Horner

 

A trend of improving consumer sentiment in the U.K. faltered in March as Britons worried that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic would harm the nation's economy.

An index of consumer sentiment gathered by market-research firm GfK fell two points to minus nine. The drop interrupted three consecutive months of improving consumer confidence in the U.K. that had come as Brexit faded from headlines.

Dragging the index down was a large drop in perceptions of the country's economic strength in the year ahead. A subindex gauging views on the state of the economy over the next 12 months dropped six points to minus 27. Another subindex measuring Britons likelihood to make large purchases dropped eight points, which GfK noted was "worrying news for retailers."

The decline in consumer confidence came amid "the threat of a dramatic slowdown in the U.K. economy due to the spread of Covid-19," said Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK.

Nonetheless, the anticipated fall in consumer sentiment was significantly better than previously forecast by economists who had been expecting the index to drop 11 points to minus 18.

GfK's survey of British consumers took place in early March, before the U.K. imposed a national lockdown in an effort to restrict the virus's spread and before high-profile individuals, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, tested positive for the virus.

"Importantly, this research was carried out during the first two weeks of March, when...coronavirus was headline news but not impacting day-to-day lives," Mr. Staton said.

GfK surveyed 2,000 adults between March 2 and March 13 and produced the index on behalf of the European Commission.

 

Write to Will Horner at william.horner@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 30, 2020 19:15 ET (23:15 GMT)

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