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Consumer confidence rises in North

Improvements in finances along with greater expectations for saving and spending are credited for the rise since September 2008, the Northern Bank stated in a "Consumer Confidence Index for Northern Ireland" published last week.

"The broad theme coming from the latest research is positive. There are encouraging signs across all key indicators used to measure consumer confidence," said Northern Bank official, Angela McGowan.

Low interest rates over the last year, lower mortgage payments for those households on tracker (flexible interest) mortgages combined with overall lower prices in 2009, have led to a reduction in the proportion of people feeling financially worse off in December compared with one year ago.

Overall, consumers' assessment of their current financial position has improved over the quarter.

This is shown by a fall of five percent in the proportion of consumers who feel financially worse off now relative to one year ago, combined with a small rise in those currently feeling better off.

"Spending expectations showed a marked improvement, although 28 percent of consumers still plan to spend less," said McGowan.

"The survey also shows a determination amongst households to improve their finances with expectations of the amount that they will save rising overall."

Meanwhile, Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson has defended the Executive's economic record.

"The past financial year has been incredibly difficult for the Northern Ireland economy. The depth of the recession has provided challenges for many sections of our society.

"Despite this, and despite those armchair experts who sit on the sidelines and criticize, the Executive has delivered real improvements to people's lives over the past year," Wilson said.

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