Irish consumer sentiment improved slightly to hit its strongest level in eight months in February, a survey showed on Friday, as mild weather, lower petrol prices and increased confidence about the jobs market eased cost-of-living concerns.
The Credit Union Consumer Sentiment index rose to 55.6 in February from 55.2 in January.
That was up from September's 14-year low of 42.1, but well below the 77.0 recorded in the February 2022 survey, taken before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The reading indicates the Irish economy has again proven resilient and the worst fears that emerged a year ago have not been realised, the survey's authors said in a statement.
'We May Be Past 'Peak Fear'
While consumer spending plans remain weak, "we may be past 'peak fear'," the statement said.
"The slight increase in consumer confidence in February suggests no major change in consumer thinking this month. As the sentiment index has fallen in February in 18 of the previous 26 years, likely reflecting post-Christmas bills and dark and cold weather, the marginal pick-up in confidence this month may hint at an underlying improvement that likely comes from some modest easing in concerns around cost-of-living pressures," noted Austin Hughes, author of the research.
"This may be due in part to relatively mild and dry weather through the survey period that should translate into lower than feared heating bills. The ongoing easing in wholesale energy costs should also have helped through the prospect of less threatening utility bills in the months ahead.
"Finally, the continuing health of economic indicators such as exchequer returns and unemployment data through the survey period may have lessened nervousness that a marked slowdown was inevitable and possibly underway."