UK consumers hold their nerve in Brexit storm: GfK

FILE PHOTO: A shopper carries a basket in a supermarket in London, Britain April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

LONDON (Reuters) - British consumers maintained their confidence levels in March as a strong labour market countered worries about the political chaos surrounding Britain’s departure from the European Union, a survey showed on Friday.

The monthly GfK consumer confidence index held at -13 in March, similar to its level over the previous four months and a touch above expectations of -14 in Reuters poll of economists.

Still, the European Commission’s version of the GfK data, which is seasonally adjusted and preferred by the Bank of England, on Thursday showed British consumer morale fell in March to its lowest level since late 2013.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she would step down once a Brexit divorce deal is secured. But it remains unclear if the deal she agreed with other EU leaders can pass parliament and MPs have rejected eight alternatives.

Consumers have continued to spend, helped by strong growth in employment and improving wage growth.

By contrast, the uncertainty about Brexit has hit business investment.

“While UK consumers report a small increase in optimism for their personal financial situation for the coming year, the index is being dragged down by our nagging fears for the general economy,” Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK.

The European Commission’s version of GfK’s data showed confidence in the economy was the weakest out of any EU country.

The GfK survey was conducted for the European Commission and polled 2,001 Britons between March 1 and March 14.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg