More signs emerge of economic recovery

LONDON (Reuters) - The country’s recovery prospects were brightened by survey results on Wednesday which showed consumer morale jumped in August while employers took on more staff and price pressures eased.

The Nationwide Consumer Confidence index rose to 63 in August from an upwardly-revised 61 in July. That was the highest since May 2008 and reflected Britons’ more upbeat view on current and future conditions as well as a greater willingness to spend.

A separate survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and accountants KPMG showed the number of job appointments rose last month for the first time in over a year.

On inflation, figures from the British Retail Consortium showed shop prices fell 0.1 percent last month to register their first negative reading since February 2007.

The surveys provide an upbeat backdrop for Bank of England policymakers who kick off a two-day meeting to debate monetary policy on Wednesday.

While the BoE has acknowledged the brighter tone of recent data, it remains concerned about the strength and sustainability of any economic recovery and is not expected to change interest rates or its 175 billion pound asset purchase scheme this week.

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Nationwide’s consumer confidence index showed a broad improvement in shoppers’ morale.

The expectations index, which gauges peoples’ sentiment about the economy, jobs and their own finances in 6 months’ time, rose to 94 from 91 in July -- the highest since September 2007, when the credit crunch kicked off. The present situation index improved modestly to 17 from 16 in July, but still suggests that Britons are overwhelmingly downbeat about the current climate, with more than 70 percent of respondents describing the current employment and economic situation as “bad.” “The rise in positive sentiment across all the indices is no surprise as a number of key economic indicators continue to show that we may have reached the bottom of the current recessionary cycle,” said the mortgage lender’s chief economist, Martin Gahbauer.

The KPMG/REC jobs report showed Britons had reason to feel less fearful about their employment prospects.

The index for firms’ hiring of permanent workers rose to 50.6 from July’s 46.1. That was the highest level for 17 months and above the 50-level that separates contraction from expansion. For temporary staff, the index rose to 50.3 from 45.1, its highest since July 2008.

“For the first time in 17 months, this month’s report shows signs that the UK jobs market is improving,” said REC Chief Executive Kevin Green. “It seems that employers are becoming more confident in their hiring decisions.”

Writing by Christina Fincher; editing by Stephen Nisbet