UK consumer confidence suffers record fall over coronavirus - GfK

LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - British consumer confidence has recorded its biggest fall in more than 45 years, a survey showed on Monday, as a widening shutdown of the economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus hammered households’ financial hopes.

GfK, which has conducted monthly surveys of British consumer sentiment since 1974, ran an extra poll in late March which showed the weakest sentiment since February 2009.

The drop in the index to -34 from -9 in its regular survey for March, conducted earlier in the month, was the biggest on record.

“Our COVID-19 ‘flash report’ shows a dramatic result with consumer confidence falling off the cliff in the last two weeks of March,” GfK client strategy director Joe Staton said.

Surveys of businesses have been similarly bleak. IHS Markit’s monthly purchasing managers’ index for the services and manufacturing sectors, published on Friday, pointed to the sharpest contraction on record.

The biggest decline in the GfK survey came in households’ willingness to make major purchases, despite a spike in demand for freezers, televisions and home office equipment as people prepared to spend most of their time at home.

GfK conducted the European Union-commissioned survey of 2,000 people between March 16 and March 27. Over this period Britain moved from advising people to avoid bars and restaurants to banning them from leaving their homes except to buy food, exercise or do essential work.

Economists fear Britain’s economy, like many others around the world, is heading for a severe recession but say a bounce-back is possible later in the year, depending on how the coronavirus outbreak develops.

Reporting by David Milliken