September 5, 2018 / 11:25 PM / 3 months ago

Irish consumer sentiment falls back as Brexit worries weigh

FILE PHOTO: A man fishes in the rain on a river in Ballyforan, Ireland, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish consumer sentiment slipped in August as worries about Brexit grew, a survey showed on Thursday, erasing a July bounce put down to unusually warm weather and the start of the summer holidays.

Ireland’s economy is on course to be the best performer in the European Union for the fifth consecutive year, but there is increasing concern about the vulnerability of the economy to an unruly British exit from the bloc.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index fell to 102.4 in August from 107.6 in July, leaving it broadly in line with the June level of 102.1.

The fall in Irish consumer sentiment coincided with weakness in comparable indicators for the United States and the euro zone, and consumer expectations could be further dampened by global risks, Philip Economides of the ESRI said.

“August was mired in such events, including the commencement of a U.S.-China trade war, the rising concerns of emerging market contagion risks for European banks and the lethargy exhibited within Brexit negotiations,” Economides said.

The sentiment index has not moved in the same direction in successive months since last November, reflecting substantial uncertainty, the survey’s authors said.

“The pull-back in August is partly a reaction to the end of summer sales and the onset of various financial commitments ranging from back-to-school spending to higher autumn energy bills,” KBC Ireland Chief Economist Austin Hughes said.

“Irish consumer sentiment is on a modestly positive trend but the average consumer is seeing modest and quite uneven gains in spending power and many feel some distance removed from strong macro data.”

Reporting by Graham Fahy; editing by Andrew Roche

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