A HONEYMOON period for the new Government led to consumer confidence taking a surprising upward leap last month.
Despite worsening unemployment and rising fuel bills, consumer confidence in March improved to its highest level since last August.
The KBC/ESRI consumer sentiment index -- which measures people's views of the current economic situation and future outlook -- increased from 50.3 in February to 59.5 in March.
This was the third biggest monthly improvement since the index began 15 years ago -- although confidence is still very weak compared to past years when the index averaged 89.3.
KBC chief economist Austin Hughes said the leap in confidence might reflect hopes for a fresh start as the new Government took office.
"Greater political certainty and a honeymoon period for the new Government could have contributed to the imp-rovement in sentiment," he said.
But although the figure suggested hopes for a fresh start, it didn't suggest Irish consumers were irrationally exuberant about the future.
It also remains to be seen if the rise was just a blip -- particularly as the next monthly survey will measure the impact on consumer mood of the latest bank bailout bill, rising interest rates and even higher fuel bills.