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CONSUMER sentiment in May plummeted for the first time since December, figures show.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI consumer sentiment index fell to 61 in May from 62.5 in April.

But KBC noted that the underlying trend in sentiment, as measured by the three-month moving average of the series, rose in May to 61.4 from 60.1.

The index reveals that the sharpest drop in the survey was seen in relation to the general economic outlook, but the jobs element of the May survey was "particularly encouraging''.

The bank's chief economist, Austin Hughes, above, said that the fragile economy means that a "straight line'' improvement can not be expected.