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Credit card spend up first time in four years

SPENDING on credit cards has increased for the first time since 2008 while Irish banks' dependence on the European Central Bank (ECB) is at a two-year low.

Both trends add to the tentative evidence that the economy is finally beginning to stabilise following the financial crisis.

Personal credit card spending rose by 5pc in July to €790m, according to figures published by the Central Bank yesterday. It is the first time in four years that consumers did not reduce credit card debt, a sign of growing consumer confidence.

"This first annual increase in four years adds to other evidence pointing to a possible pick-up in overall household spending," said Bank of Ireland chief economist Dan McLaughlin.

The same data shows that the reliance of the Irish banks on the ECB for emergency funds dropped to €71.9bn at the end of July from €75.8bn in June, the lowest level since September 2010. Weaning failed Irish banks off emergency support is a key government priority.

The latest improvement is mainly a result of banks shrinking their balance sheets, according to Dermot O'Leary of Goodbody Stockbrokers. Banks like AIB and Bank of Ireland have been selling off billions of euro of 'non-core' assets under instructions from the Central Bank, and reducing their need for cash.

Deposit

Overall lending to households fell in July, however, with far more debt being repaid than borrowed. Consumer lending was down 3.6pc in July compared to a year earlier. Credit to business also decreased, down 3.4pc in the period.

The latest data shows that the amount of cash on deposit with Irish banks is now back to the same level as a year ago, the best performance since January 2010, according to Dermot O'Leary.

"Deposit stability in the Irish banks has been one of the most positive features of Irish macroeconomic trends in the year to date. This data shows the trend continued into the second half of the year," he said.

Irish Independent