UK consumer morale stays weak in April-GfK

LONDON, April 27 Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:01pm EDT

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - Worries about prospects for the coming year kept Britons' economic morale in the doldrums in April, a survey showed on Friday, reinforcing doubts that consumers will loosen their purse strings and help drag the economy out of recession.

The headline consumer confidence index in a survey conducted by pollster GfK NOP remained at -31 in April, confounding economists' forecasts for a modest improvement to -30.

The index has been stuck in a range of -29 to -33 for almost a year, and Friday's figures adds to the woes of Britain's Conservative-led government, whose tough austerity measures have been blamed by the opposition for pushing the country back into its second recession since the financial crisis started.

"It is clear that much like the economy as a whole, consumer confidence is in the doldrums," said Nick Moon, Director of Social Research at GfK.

"And unfortunately, there are no signs either within the survey or in the recent economic figures to suggest any immediate improvement."

Official data on Wednesday showed Britain's economy slipped back into recession this year after contracting 0.2 percent between January and March, its second-quarter of falling output.

But some economists have expressed doubts about the reliability of that preliminary data, while other recent figures suggest consumer morale has improved and shoppers' appetite to spend has returned.

The Bank of England has also said it is more focussed on underlying indicators of economic activity, such as industry surveys, and looks likely to halt to its 325 billion pound quantitative easing programme next month, though policymaker Martin Weale said the case for more QE was now stronger.

A breakdown of the GfK survey showed Britons were their most pessimistic in a year about the outlook for their personal finances, while the index gauging people's expectations for the overall economy for the next 12 months fell to a 3-month low.

However, the index measuring people's appetite to splash out on big purchases improved slightly to -30 from -31 in March.