CONSUMER sentiment ended 2013 at the strongest level in six-and-a-half years, boosted by hopes that the economy is turning and pressure on household finances may be set to ease, according to new research.
But while there is a sense that the overall economy is on the up, many people remain fearful for their own finances.
In December a majority of 51pc of people surveyed for the research said they expected the Irish economy to improve in the year ahead.
In December 2012 only one in five thought the economy would improve over the coming 12 months. The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI index of consumer sentiment rose in December to 79.8 from 71.0 in November.
That is above the 49.8 level recorded at the end of 2012, but confidence remains well below the historical average.
"Consumers continue to be buffeted by an array of opposing and frequently bewildering economic developments.
"Irish consumer thinking is undoubtedly shaped by some very painful experiences through the recent crisis," according to the research.
Even as more consumers say they expect the economy to improve, those negative factors are set to weigh on sentiment well into the future, the researchers said.
The rise in Irish consumer sentiment in December was seen across four of the five main elements of the survey; sentiment on the jobs market was unchanged.