| 16°C Dublin


CONSUMERS have begun the year in an upbeat mood. The consumer sentiment index for January hit its highest level since May 2007, in response to Christmas sales and an improving jobs outlook. Economists said fears about household finances are easing.

The KBC Bank/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 84.6 in January from 79.8 in December, taking the index to its highest level in six-and-a-half years.

KBC Bank economist Austin Hughes (right) said it was not the case that consumers feel their economic conditions were back to normal.

"We would argue that the trend in sentiment data through the past year is consistent with a sense that Irish consumers are gradually recovering from the extreme difficulties of recent years," he said. "Painful legacies of the crisis mean this is likely to be a lengthy and 'choppy' process rather than a smooth pick-up in sentiment."

A number of upbeat economic forecasts and commentaries since the State exited the bailout programme in December have helped boost confidence.