April 3, 2019 / 11:04 PM / 7 months ago

Irish consumer sentiment recovers half of February plunge

DUBLIN, April 4 (Reuters) - Irish consumer sentiment stayed subdued in March, through it partly recovered from the dramatic fall it recorded in February as concerns about the impact of Brexit appeared less acute, data showed on Thursday.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index plunged 12 points in February to a four-year low of 86.5. In March it recovered around half of that loss to 93.1.

The uptick “doesn’t signal any dramatic improvement in either the current circumstances or future prospects of the average consumer,” said Austin Hughes, Chief Economist, KBC Bank Ireland.

“However, it does suggest that if Irish consumers are anxious, the mood has not become apocalyptic as the Brexit deadline comes closer,” he said.

Despite being widely seen as the EU country with the most to lose from Brexit, Ireland weathered initial concerns stemming from Britain’s 2016 referendum vote, which failed to interrupt a run of five straight years as Europe’s fastest growing economy.

But the Irish central bank has said that if Britain crashes out without a deal it could knock as much as 4 percentage points off Ireland’s growth rate in the first full post-Brexit year.

The survey’s authors said the March uptick could have been fuelled by increased hope in recent weeks that a no-deal Brexit might be avoided.

A signal from the European Central Bank’s that mortgage interest rates might remain lower for longer may also have helped.

But the trend in sentiment shown by the three-month moving average continued to weaken in March, they said. (Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by John Stonestreet)

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