Consumer confidence held steady in February at the seven-month high reached last month, a survey by GfK NOP showed on Wednesday, keeping alive hopes that recent evidence of a pick-up in consumption may herald an economic recovery.
The headline index in the survey stayed at the -29 level reached in January. But it fell short of economists' forecast for a reading of -27 and was still lower than a year ago.
February's figures suggest this current increase is built on sturdier foundations than the short-term spike we saw last year, where the gain was wiped out over the following few months, said Nick Moon, managing director of GfK NOP Social Research.
Next month's results will determine whether we are seeing the beginnings of a sustained improvement in consumer confidence, or whether this is merely a steadying of the ship.
Consumer confidence remains extremely fragile and the latest survey reading is still not far off the record lows hit at the height of the financial crisis.
Weak consumption was a major reason for Britain's disappointing growth last year, but recent economic news suggests consumers are spending more again.
For example, a survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed on Tuesday that British retail sales had improved much more than expected in February.
A breakdown of the GfK survey indicated that, while the climate for major purchases worsened following the end of the traditional January sales, consumers became more upbeat about the economic outlook and their finances over the coming year.
The survey was conducted by GfK NOP from February 3 to February 12 on behalf of the European Commission and covered 2,000 people.
(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova)