[LONDON] British consumer morale edged down in December to reach its weakest level since March as optimism about the economy hit a 17-month low, a survey by polling company GfK showed on Friday.
Its headline consumer confidence index fell to -4 in December, down from -2 in November and slipping below all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that predicted a slight rise to -1.
While the index was still well above its long-run average of -9, prospects for the coming year dimmed as GfK's measure of economic optimism slipped to its lowest level since July 2013.
Britain's rapid economic recovery looks set to slow only slightly in the coming months, but worries about the health of the euro zone economy and geopolitical turmoil this year has likely curbed consumer morale. "After seven months of flatlining within two points either side of -1, the index has finally moved just out of this range, and the bad news for the government is that it has moved downward," said Nick Moon, managing director of social research at GfK.
The ruling Conservative Party hopes Britain's strong economic growth will persuade voters to return it to power in May's national election. The opposition Labour party says years of stagnant wages and rising prices have left many Britons with a cost-of-living crisis.
A separate survey on Friday from forecaster CEBR and polling company YouGov also showed consumer confidence fell in December, to the second lowest level in 2014.
It too showed waning optimism about the economy next year, with people feeling less certain about their employment prospects next year and expectations for household finances dropping off slightly.
Still, the most recent official data show Britons have been confident in splashing out on big-ticket items.
British retail sales surged at their fastest annual rate in more than a decade last month, as US-style "Black Friday" discounts drove record sales growth at electrical and department stores.